Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos is enjoying a victory lap after being reelected last week–an election that many interpret as a mandate to continue peace talks with the terrorist guerrilla, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The United States, Vice President Joe Biden asserted this week, also supports the talks.
“Just as the United States supported Colombian leaders on the battlefield, we fully support them at the negotiating table so that they can finish this 50-year-old conflict,” Biden said in a public statement after talks with President Santos, said to range from fighting the illegal drug trade to ending FARC violence in the region. Santos is currently engaging in talks with FARC leaders harbored in Havana, Cuba, to negotiate a peace treaty that would end terrorism by the radical Marxist group.
President Santos, on his end, called Biden “very attentive to the whole process” and “a great friend of Colombia.” He described the support of the United States as “fundamental,” and he reiterated that he seeks to strengthen his relations with the country, even as Colombia remains the United States’ greatest ally in the region.
Santos’ run-off victory against opponent Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who opposed further peace talks with the terrorist group, guaranteed that the talks would proceed, even though the FARC violated a ceasefire agreement meant to last through the election with at least three incidents of terrorist activity. The Associated Press notes that the war with the FARC has cost Colombia at least 220,000 lives since the inception of the FARC half a century ago, though its influence in rural Colombia has diminished significantly since the United States began counterterrorism efforts modeled after Al Qaeda missions in rural areas of the country. The CIA’s efforts in Colombia under President George W. Bush mostly eradicated the leaders of the FARC to Cuba, which sponsors much of its terrorist activity.
The stop in Colombia is part of a greater Latin American tour by Vice President Biden, who also stopped in Brazil this week to watch the United States win its match against Ghana. Biden later joined the players in their locker room to congratulate them on their victory. He is expected to visit the Dominican Republic and Guatemala before returning to the United States. In addition to discussing country-specific issues, Biden has also been requesting some countries to accept Guantánamo Bay prisoners who can no longer be returned to the areas of the Middle East and west Asia where they were captured.