During their first meeting Thursday in the White House, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump extended a hand of friendship and expressed their desire to continue strengthening an all ready strong bilateral relationship.
For one hour in the Oval Office, Santos and Trump discussed the surge of coca cultivation in Colombia, the existing free trade agreement, and the strategic importance of Colombia for stability and security in the hemisphere in light of the Venezuela crisis. “The United States and Colombia are, today, more than ever, a support for each other, our alliance has been strengthened,” said Santos.
The Colombian President then went on to thank Trump, the United States Congress and people of America for supporting ‘Plan Colombia’, the ambitious U.S aid program that funneled over 18 years more than US$10 billion into the so-called War on Drugs.
“When Colombians fought for the survival of our democracy against terrorism and drug trafficking, the United States offered us a hand and helped us win this battle, we will never forget it,” said Santos.
During a press conference accompanied by Santos, Trump reaffirmed his plan to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of his administration’s aim to stop crime and drugs from entering the United States. “The drug epidemic is poisoning too many American lives. We’re going to stop it. One of the ways will be the wall.”
When questioned how the Colombian leader would stop the flow of drugs across the border, Santos urged for more collaboration. “This is not a problem of Colombia, or a problem of the United States. It’s a global problem. We have to all work together.” Although it was an all smiles press conference, Trump disagreed expressing: “Walls work. Just ask Israel.”
Both leaders agreed to boost the trade partnership and continue to be key allies in the fight to curb the flow of narcotics. Trump urged Santos to continue to find ways to eradicate coca given a record surge in production.
Trump went on to congratulate Santos for winning the Nobel Peace Prize as a “great achievement.”
Santos reaffirmed that the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) guerrilla ended 52 years of bloodshed: “Today we live in a different country. Colombia is a more modern, more peaceful society. We put an end to the oldest and longest armed conflict in the hemisphere.”