US President Donald Trump recently played host to Colombian President Juan M. Santos. Fiyin examines the political cloud over Santos and the May 18 meeting with Trump.

Juan Manuel Santos and Donald Trump may have diverging political interests but they do have one thing in common- they were both born into wealthy families. While the Trump name is prominent in business America, Santos’ family is an influential part of the Colombian politics even before the country existed. With a former President as uncle, cousin as Vice President and his father, a long-term editor of Colombia’s most important newspaper, Santos has rarely strayed far from the Presidency.

fiyin_meets_santos
Fiyin Kolawole (Front Right) met President Juan Santos (centre) during a Peace Conversation in a public school (mid 2016)

Riding on the popularity, endorsement and support of then incubent President Álvaro Uribe, Santos became president in 2010. Before that, he had served as Minister of Foreign Trade under César Gaviria, Minister of Finance and Public Credit under Andrés Pastrana Arango as well as Minister of National Defense under Álvaro Uribe.

Colombia's Marxist FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, during a news conference in Bogota
Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, speaks during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

Today, Santos is popular as the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize winner for ending Latin America’s longest conflict- the over 50-years old civil war led by Marxist guerrilla group- FARC. After years of negotiation, Santos drafted a peace deal with the rebel group. The deal was initially rejected by the Colombian people led by Santos’s former boss- Álvaro Uribe. After consultations and modifications, the peace agreement upon which Santos based his campaign was ratified by congressional voting.

It was therefore unsurprising that when Santos paid the visit to Trump, the Colombian President continuously expressed a desire that Trump publicly approve of this lauded feat. Instead, the Donald consistently showed that of the issues in Latin America, ending the violence in Venezuela and intensifying the ‘W’ in the War against Drugs is his priority.

the best wall to build is economic development in Central and South America

Juan Manuel Santos

While Santos expressed a more diplomatic and strategic approach to everything including disarming the FARC, reducing the production of Cocaine and promoting trade between both parties; Trump made it clear that the United States would bring back jobs from countries like Colombia, pressurize Latin America to reduce Coca Plantation as well as use whatever means necessary to turn the situation around in Venezuela. When asked about the wall, Santos said that the best wall needed is more economic development in Central and South America, while President Trump scoffs off this idea as very diplomatic.

“walls work. Just ask Israel”

Donald J. Trump

Santos, optimistic that the decades-long relationship between Colombia and the United States will continue, recalled how soldiers from both countries fought in the Korean war, how Colombia is still the best business destination in South America for US businesses, how The USA benefits from Colombian exports and indirectly, how him, being the only center-right president in leftist South America, is a key ally to the United States and much of the international community.

As Trump consistently talked about the recent increase in the cultivation of Coca in Colombia, Santos reminds the world of how his government is disabling the supply chain of cocaine from replacing Coca plantations with legal plants, destroying Cocaine laboratories, seizing large amounts of products to making significant arrests. Santos also outlined the strategy Latin America is working on at restoring peace in Venezuela. This includes, as he said on Fox TV, making both parties reach an agreement on election dates, ensuring government recognizes the national assembly and securing the release of political prisoners.

At the press conference after the meeting, questions were raised over Trump’s Russia ties, recent happenings as par the FBI Director among other things; at the same time, back in Colombia, Santos’ reputation seems to be obeying the laws of diminishing returns as people want more social projects, higher investment in infrastructure and more assurance that Santos will not allow his country be a stage-ground for US imperialism.

There’s a lot of uncertainty behind both men, and although I’ve never met Donald Trump; when I met Santos in July, 2016. He came off as a very humane person ready to connect and constructively understand how 21st century politics works.

But is Santos a saint? That’s for Colombia to decide.

 although I’ve never met Donald Trump; when I met Santos in July, 2016. He came off as a humane person ready to connect and constructively understand how 21st century politics works.

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