• Photo Credit: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C./Joyce N. Boghosian

His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

President of the Republic of Colombia | May 18, 2017

President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long conflict to an end. In his discussion with Club President Rubenstein, President Santos reflected on the events that have moved Colombia near to ending the long-running conflict with FARC. He said, “I got elected president because I was a very effective minister of defense. . . . But then to change the policy and sit down with them, many people didn’t understand that.  They wanted to continue to see if they could exterminate the FARC, which was impossible.  Colombia is a country ideal for guerilla warfare, full of mountains, jungles.  And that would have taken 20 or 30 years more.  What we needed was to weaken the FARC in order to sit them at the negotiating table, because in today’s world any asymmetrical war has to be terminated through negotiations.”

Excerpts from Event

“Mak[ing] peace is much, much more difficult than making war.  Making war is relatively easy, because leadership during war is very straightforward.  The other guys are the enemies, rallying the forces around you.  And if you win, you become very popular.  But making peace means you have to change the perceptions: the attitudes of people, people who have suffered have to forgive or at least [reconcile].  And that takes a lot of effort.”

“This is the first agreement (the peace agreement with FARQ) that puts the victims at the center of the solution.  This has made this agreement very unique and very comprehensive.  There are many of the analysts around the world that have studied different peace agreements the last decade, say this is the most comprehensive and most complete agreement signed so far.” ~ His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Republic of Colombia, May, 18, 2017

“Right now, because of the peace agreement, you have this unique opportunity to reduce the production of drugs out of Colombia and become not the first, hopefully a very minor exporter of coca in the world markets.” ~ His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Republic of Colombia, May, 18, 2017

 “. . . we are the most important strategic ally that the U.S. has in Latin America.  . . . we have been together for many, many years.  We fought together in the Korean War.  We are working together to help Central America fight organized crime.  We did together the – what I think – the most successful bipartisan foreign policy initiative that the U.S. has launched in the recent past.  Colombia was on the verge of being a failed state in the early – in the beginning of the century, only 16, 17 years ago.  Today it’s a flourishing country, one of the top performers of Latin America.  That is thanks to Plan Colombia, in big part.  So we are good partners.  We share the same values, the same principles.”~ His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Republic of Colombia, May, 18, 2017

“. . . the strategic interests of the U.S. are much more in Latin America, south of the Rio Grande, than many parts of the world that you are so interested in.  And I believe that.  And if you look south, if you take into account more what Latin America represents – we’re not the backyard; we’re the front yard of the U.S. – we will be much better off.” ~ His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Republic of Colombia, May, 18, 2017

“We are making a revolution in our infrastructure.  And you can invest part of your portfolio in infrastructure.  Tourism.  If there is a potential in Colombia, it’s tourism.  And in every country that has any tourism potential that has an armed conflict, what has grown the most after the conflict ends is tourism.  And we have a tremendous variety of tourist attractions.  Something that is getting very popular, many of the U.S. companies are investing there, health – health services.  We have a tremendous opportunity in the agribusiness.  I say that because of the conflict half of the country that was not exploited.  With the peace process, you now have half the country to do what you did in the West in the 19th century, you know?  . . . develop.  And there is a tremendous opportunity there in agribusiness.”~ His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President, Republic of Colombia, May, 18, 2017

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