Biden praises peace talks, economic gains during Colombia visit

Vice President Biden in Bogota on Monday praised Colombian President Juan Manuel Santo’s work to bring an end to his country’s civil war and heralded closer economic ties in the region.

The two met for more than two hours and discussed energy, education, the environment, trade and security. In a joint press conference, Biden recalled his last visit to the country in 2000, when Colombia was in the throes of a violent conflict with rebel groups.

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“Since then you’ve reclaimed your nation from civil war,” Biden said. “You’ve taken this country further and faster than many dared hope was even possible back then. 

"Of course, Colombia -- no Colombian needs to be told this story. You’ve lived it. But I wanted to take this moment to pay a personal tribute to you and to the people of Colombia for the remarkable, remarkable progress you’ve made just since last I was here,” the vice president added.

Biden is in the first stop of a three nation tour that will take him to Trinidad and Tobago, where he will meet with Caribbean leaders to discuss economic and security ties, and then to Brazil.

Last May, the U.S. and Colombia finalized and Congress passed a free trade agreement, which had taken several years to complete. 

U.S. labor groups opposed the agreement, but the Obama administration determined that Colombia had done enough to satisfy worker concerns in the country.

Biden and Santo visited a flower farm on the outskirts of Bogota. Flowers are one of Colombia’s top exports to the United States.

“Now as conflicts begin to recede, Colombia is embracing a new mission, and that is locking in your economic and security gains that gave you so much to win and building a just and durable peace,” Biden said. “Our relationship has evolved to reflect just that. I meant what I said when I said it’s long past the time when America looks out and says, what can we do for you? It is not just with the Colombian people, but the entire hemisphere: What can we do with other countries in the hemisphere to benefit all of us?

“In the darkest days, the United States was proud to support the Colombian people,” Biden added. “And, Mr. President, now in these brighter and brighter days, we’re proud to be associated with you.”

Biden also held a moment of silence to honor fallen veterans in both countries for Memorial Day before boarding Air Force Two.