News / Americas

Colombian President 'Optimistic' About Peace

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he addressed a gathering at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, Dec. 2, 2013.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he addressed a gathering at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, Dec. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, bound for Washington on an official visit, said on Monday he remains cautiously optimistic about peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels taking place in Cuba.
 
“I think the conditions are there” for a successful conclusion to the talks, Santos told an audience of academics, students and diplomats at the University of Miami. “Things are moving hopefully in the correct direction.”
 
But he quoted a Colombian proverb as a cautionary note, saying, “The bread can very well burn right at the door of the oven.”
 
Santos, a Harvard-educated journalist, spoke eloquently in English about his hopes for peace and economic growth in Colombia during a 30-minute speech at the invitation of University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who awarded him the school's President's Medal for service to society.
 
Santos, on his second official visit to the United States since taking office in 2010, hailed both the year-old peace talks as well as economic progress at home.
 
“It's a different scenario” when the president of Colombia visits the United States these days, he said, comparing conditions at home to a decade ago when a guerrilla insurgency was raging on the outskirts of the capital Bogota and Washington was pouring in military aid to back the government.
 
Since then the war had dramatically turned in the government's favor.

“We are now being respected internationally,” Santos said, noting that his meeting with Obama scheduled for Tuesday would not be focused on military aid but rather on education and technology, as well as regional security.
 
“Usually when the president came to the United States he would have gone to the Southern Command,” he said referring to the U.S. regional military headquarters based in Miami. “Now he will come to the University of Miami. In a way this shows how things have changed.”
 
While the United States and Colombia enjoy close ties, Santos said things could be better between Washington and the rest of Latin America, where left-wing governments led by Venezuela have shunned the United States.
 
Rebuilding Frayed Relations
 
Half a century after President John F. Kennedy started the Alliance for Progress to forge better ties between the United States and Latin America, Santos said he planned to ask Obama to launch something similar to help rebuild frayed relations with the region.
 
“Maybe it's time to launch another Alliance for Progress,” he said, suggesting it be called an Alliance for Progress and Peace.
 
“The United States should look more south. We are strategic to the United States. In Colombia we are very proud to be such good allies of the United States, but I think the whole region can have much better and closer relations with the United States.”
 
Santos, 62, is making his first foreign trip since he announced Nov. 20 that he plans to seek a second term in next May's presidential election. He will face opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a campaign likely to focus on the FARC peace process and the future of the country after five decades of rebellion.
 
In Washington, a senior Obama administration official said Obama's meeting with Santos should not be viewed as an endorsement of the Colombian's re-election bid. In the meeting, Obama will profess his strong support of Colombia's peace process, the official said.
 
“The message that the president will convey, that the visit will convey, is that the United States is a committed partner and we'll continue to stand by Colombia,” the official said.
 
Obama will raise U.S. concerns that Colombia needs to do more to settle labor issues and address human rights challenges, the official added.
 
Zuluaga, a one-time senator and provincial mayor, accuses Santos of offering the rebels too many concessions.
 
Meeting in Havana this week, government mediators are working through a five-point agenda with some three dozen rebel leaders, seeking to stop bloodshed that has killed more than 200,000 people since it began in 1964.
 
Earlier this month the two sides reached agreement on one of the toughest items on the agenda: FARC political participation. While details of the accord have not yet been revealed, the rebels are expected to be allowed to hold some sort of public office and possibly gain access to Congress.
 
Both sides are now working on resolving the third leg of the process: drug trafficking. Santos said he hoped the peace process would turn Colombia, once the world's largest producer of cocaine, into a “coca-free country.”

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Pope's Relatives Killed in Argentina Car Crash

Family of pontiff's nephew killed after car plows into truck
More

Ex-Guatemalan Drug Kingpin Pleads Guilty to US Charges

Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, linked by authorities to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, pleaded guilty to conspiring to import more than 450 kilograms of Colombian cocaine into US
More

Landmark Brazil Poll Brings Good News for Rousseff

Facing tough road to re-election, Rousseff has seen sharp recovery in approval ratings, voter support
More

Video Mexico Opens Energy Sector, but Investors May Hesitate

Mexican President Pena Nieto has signed into law changes designed to open it to private investment, though foreign companies are taking cautious approach
More

Video Obama Expected to Take Executive Action on Undocumented Immigrants

Congress has adjourned for a five-week recess without boosting federal funds to house and process child migrants - or reforming US immigration law
More

Saving Premies from Death or Disability

Major study says many eligible women not receiving effective, low cost treatments
More