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 Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Attack on Colombian Police Kills 7

Defense ministry vows to 'maintain and intensify' operations against armed groups, drug traffickers following the attack
More

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More