U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with recently re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday as part of his four-nation tour of the Americas. The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian insurgent groups. For the past 18 months the Colombian government has been negotiating with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN)—the two groups that have been involved in the Colombia’s internal conflict over the last 50 years. The talks were central to Santos’ win over Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga on Sunday with 50.95 percent of the vote.
While the U.S. has provided more than $9 billion since 2000 to help fund Plan Colombia, which has been fighting the drug war and the FARC and ELN insurgents, its current assistance is at its lowest level since 1998, with only $300 million sent this year. Biden affirmed the U.S.’ support of Colombia during the peace negotiations, but gave no specifics as to how such backing would be carried out. “Just as the United States has supported Colombia’s leaders in the battlefield, so do we fully support you at the negotiation table,” Biden told reporters.
The two leaders also spoke on economic development in the region and the ongoing dialogues between the government and the opposition in Venezuela. Biden also acknowledged concerns about the U.S. National Security Agency’s spying on foreign leaders and reiterated President Barack Obama’s January announcement that the U.S. would no longer be eavesdropping on the communications of allies.
Before leaving the country, the vice president also visited Colombia’s Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (National Centre for Historical Memory), which was inaugurated in 2011 to identify and remember the 220,000 victims of the Colombia conflict as well as to return stolen land. Biden had met with President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia before meeting with Santos and arrived in the Dominican Republic Wednesday night to meet with President Danilo Medina. He will end his tour in Guatemala on Friday, where he will meet with regional leaders to discuss the recent surge of child migrants.