Dec. 3 - Meeting at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama commended Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts in resolving the decades-old conflict with Marxist FARC rebels. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: U.S. President Barack Obama commended Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday (December 3) for his efforts in resolving the decades-old conflict with Marxist FARC rebels. "I congratulated President Santos on his bold and brave efforts to bring about a lasting and just peace inside Colombia in his negotiations with the FARC. Obviously, this has been a long-standing conflict within Colombia. It is not easy. There are many challenges ahead, but the fact that he has taken this step is, I think, the right one," Obama said at a press briefing at the White House after their bilateral talks. Santos, in turn, thanked Obama for the support the U.S. has offered his country as they work towards achieving peace. "It's a process that's doing very well and it is my hope that this is a conflict that will come to an end. We have been shedding blood for over 50 years and the support of the United States and the entire world is decisive in reaching that peace we all want," Santos said. The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has been fighting the government in a jungle and urban conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people in the five decades since it began as a peasant movement seeking land reform. Santos, in Washington during his second official visit to the U.S., said at the University of Miami on Monday (December 2) he remains cautiously optimistic about peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels taking place in Cuba. Half a century after President John F. Kennedy started the Alliance for Progress to forge better ties between the United States and Latin America, Santos said he has asked Obama to launch something similar to help rebuild frayed relations with the region. Obama also praised Santos for his efforts to settle labor issues and address human rights challenges. "The work and the efforts that he has made on issues like human rights and labor rights inside of Colombia are not only good for the Colombian people and we want to encourage them, but they also show a path for countries that have had, in some cases, a difficult history moving forward into a 21st century that promises greater opportunity and prosperity and peace," Obama said. Santos, 62, is making his first foreign trip since he announced on November 20 that he plans to seek a second term in next May's presidential election. He will face opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a campaign likely to focus on the FARC peace process and the future of the country after five decades of rebellion. In Washington, a senior Obama administration official said Obama's meeting with Santos should not be viewed as an endorsement of the Colombian's re-election bid.