Biden meets Colombia's re-elected President Santos

AP News
Posted: Jun 18, 2014 3:11 PM
Biden meets Colombia's re-elected President Santos

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Colombia's president on Wednesday and expressed support for newly re-elected Juan Manuel Santos attempts to negotiate an end to the Western Hemisphere's last sizable armed conflict.

Biden said his visit reflected President Barack Obama's intent "to send to you and the Colombian people an unmistakable message: The United States of America always stands with Colombia."

During more than two hours of meetings, Foreign Minister Angela Holguin said, Biden was eager to learn how the 18-month-old negotiations are going with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and discuss what role the United States could play post-conflict.

Biden promised U.S. support for Colombia after a peace accord is signed, although he offered no specifics.

"Just as the United States has supported Colombia's leaders in the battlefield, so do we fully support you at the negotiating table," Biden said in an appearance before reporters.

Santos called the meeting "long and very fruitful" and said he was "very honored to have a strategic partner in the United States."

Colombian officials say implementing a peace deal will be far more complicated than reaching agreement in Cuba, where the talks are being held.

Colombia has been at war for more than a half century and government peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo says the nation will depend heavily on international donors and boots-on-the-ground verification of an eventual accord.

Santos said Monday that a peace deal would seal with "a golden brushstroke" the counter-narcotics and anti-insurgency initiative known as Plan Colombia, through which Washington has delivered more than $9 billion in mostly military aid since 2000.

Biden, as a senator, was an architect of the program, which helped Colombia badly weaken the rebels.

Publicly acknowledged U.S. police and military assistance to Colombia has dropped considerably since Santos, who was defense minister from 2006-2009, first won election in 2010. At less than $300 million this year, it is the lowest since 1998.

Biden arrived from Brazil on Tuesday night and was to depart later Wednesday for the Dominican republic after visiting Colombia's National Center for Historical Memory, which was created through a 2011 law that aims to indemnify victims of the conflict and restore stolen land.

The conflict has claimed an estimated 220,000 lives, with 80 percent of them civilians.

In an interview published Wednesday, Biden said Colombia is a model of economic stewardship and a constructive regional and global player.

Biden also noted concerns in the region about the U.S. National Security Agency's eavesdropping on foreign leaders, citing President Barack Obama's recently announced decision to stop spying on the communications of friendly leaders.

A document published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in March listed Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's president from 2002-2010, as one of the close allies on which the U.S. spied.


Associated Press writer Cesar Garcia contributed to this report.