Juan Manuel Santos Inaugurated In Colombia; Says Will Improve Relations With Venezuela, Human Rights
August 9, 2010 By Staff
Today in Latin America
Top Story — Juan Manuel Santos took office as Colombia’s president in a ceremony on Saturday, pledging to renew ties with Venezuela and pay more attention to social issues and human rights, The Washington Post reports.
Santos inherits the popularity of the outgoing conservative Álvaro Uribe administration, which is credited with improving security by delivering devastating blows to a half-century old leftist guerrilla army known by its Spanish initials as the FARC.
But the Uribe administration fared poorly in the realm of human rights. Colombia’s intelligence service, known as the DAS, has spied on and, in some cases, threatened opposition politicians, journalists and human rights workers. Colombia’s military was found to have killed innocent civilians and dressed them up as enemy combatants to inflate casualty statistics, in a scandal that has become known as the “false positives.”
In his speech, Santos opened the door to negotiations with the FARC — a strategy that ex-president Uribe had avoided.
“The door to dialogue is not locked,” Santos said at his inauguration speech, according to The Associated Press. “It is possible to have a Colombia at peace, a Colombia without guerrillas, and we’re going to prove it! By reason or by force!”
One of the key developments following Santos’ inauguration was a breakthrough in Colombia’s fractured diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela. The Colombian government announced over the weekend that the newly elected Santos would meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday to discuss how the two leaders could rebuild their frayed relationship.
The tussle between Colombia and Venezuela has caused concern throughout the hemisphere over the last three weeks, and was debated at meetings of the regional group Unasur and the common market alliance Mercosur, which is composed primarily of the countries of the Southern Cone.
“We have much hope that the new government will begin to construct all that Uribe’s government has destroyed,” Chávez said, according to The Miami Herald.
Shortly after the announcement that Santos would meet with Chávez, Uribe took a jab at the Venezuelan president, telling Chávez via his Twitter account to “stop being a coward, sending insults from long distance.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa also attended the inauguration and met privately with Santos — a signal that Colombia and Ecuador may take steps toward normalizing diplomatic relations.
In 2008, a Colombian airstrike against a FARC camp located just across the country’s border in neighboring Ecuador angered the Correa administration, which accused Colombia of violating Ecuador’s sovereignty. The Ecuadorian courts later filed charges with Interpol against President Santos, who was then serving as Colombia’s defense minister, for his role in the attack.
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Ex-president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, wrote in a blog post on Sunday that he supported legalizing drugs as a means of breaking the power of his country’s cartels.
- A newborn in Mexico declared dead by a doctor and heard crying during her wake passed away after her parents rushed her to the hospital on Thursday night.
- The body of a murdered police officer was discovered in Ciudad Juarez outside a strip mall Sunday.
- Former President Fidel Castro of Cuba addressed a session of Parliament for the first time in four years on Saturday, the latest of several recent public appearances after a long period of seclusion.
- Puerto Rico’s prisons department says it is investigating the deaths of 53 inmates detailed in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
- Last-minute political intrigue matched the ruckus outside Haiti’s election headquarters Saturday as candidate registration for the post-earthquake presidential race came to a close.
- A mudslide caused by heavy rains killed three young Honduran brothers on Saturday.
- Two Panama-registered cargo ships collided off the coast of Mumbai, causing a significant oil spill.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez urged rebels in neighboring Colombia to lay down arms on Sunday and warned the new government of President Juan Manuel Santos to avoid accusations Venezuela helps the leftist guerrillas.
- A Russian secret agent sent home in a spy swap wants to leave and return with his wife to her native Peru, while continuing to live under the false name he used for 34 years.
- A protest by Bolivian miners has trapped more than 100 mostly European tourists in the southern Bolivia mining city of Potosi for more than a week.
- Doctors announced that Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has cancer, after discovering a second lymphoma in his chest on Saturday.
- Rescuers in Northern Chile on Sunday attempted to resupply 33 miners with food and water after they were trapped three days ago. It is not known whether the miners are still alive.
- U.S. Energy producer Apache Corp. signed an agreement with Argentina’s Pampa Energia S.A. to provide gas to the country in the midst of its power crisis.
Image: Gobierno Federal @ Flickr.