Saturday, February 21, 2015

Obama, Kerry select appointee to meddle in Colombian Peace Process


WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday named Bernie Aronson as the first American envoy to participate in the Colombian peace process, a move that means Washington will now take a more active role in the peace negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment and said the United States will become more directly involved in the peace process begun by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in November 2012.

In a speech at the State Department in Washington, Kerry noted that Aronson has a long diplomatic career, considerable experience in Latin America and has worked in the peace negotiations of El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Aronson was assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs between 1989 and 1993 in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The new special envoy has also served as consultant for Latin America for the Goldman Sachs investment bank, founded the ACON investment fund and was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Medal.

Aronson said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) must “demonstrate their courage by renouncing violence forever.”

Kerry said the creation of this special envoy position, which never existed up to now, was motivated by Santos asking Washington to assume a more active role in the Colombian government’s peace talks with the FARC, which are underway in Havana.

The head of U.S. diplomacy said that “in the two years since President Santos first embarked on a courageous effort to negotiate an end to the war, our support for the peace talks and for a peace process has been unwavering.”

“President Obama has come to the conclusion” that “while significant obstacles remain, a negotiated peace in Colombia is absolutely worth pursuing and absolutely worth assisting if we are able to,” Kerry said.

“As Colombia’s close friend and ally, the United States has a responsibility to do what it can in order to help Colombia to achieve that peace,” said Kerry, who was accompanied by Aronson and the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roberta Jacobson.

The United States has supported the Colombian government militarily over the years to isolate the FARC, extradite its leaders and end the armed conflict in that country, which has left millions of displaced persons and more than 200,000 slain.

Kerry recalled Friday that peace, the great political endeavor of Santos, “would unleash enormous potential for the Colombian people and it would have an impact throughout Latin America and perhaps even beyond.”

The Colombian ambassador to the United States, Luis Carlos Villegas, who was present at the announcement, said in a communique that Colombia is immensely grateful for this new show of support by the U.S. government for the peace process now in progress.


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