FARC

Colombian Military

Colombia is close to a peace agreement to end its 50-year-long civil war  –  and this week the guerrilla army known as the FARC promised to stop recruiting children. But a Miami-based group that rescues those kids is meeting the pledge with skepticism.

"We're extremely cautious about what this means," says Philippe Houdard, who heads the Developing Minds Foundation – whose most important work may be helping child soldiers in Colombia return to normal lives.

At its facilities in Medellín, Colombia, Developing Minds has rehabilitated more than a thousand of those children.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Today, Washington’s diplomatic gaze is on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who’s meeting President Obama at the White House.

But as Santos and Obama discuss what looks like an imminent peace accord to end Colombia’s half-century long civil war, I hope the Beltway keeps another Latin American head of state in mind: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Presidencia de Colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently told WLRN that his government’s peace talks with Marxist guerrillas were “at their most difficult moment.” After a kidnapping last weekend, we now know what Santos was talking about.

Presidencia de Colombia

“The problem with Colombia is that we’ve been fighting a war for three generations and we simply got accustomed to it. What I’m trying to tell the Colombian people is, ‘Wake up. We have to be a normal country.’”

That was the opening volley from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a wide-ranging and unusually frank interview last week in New York. But there’s one slice of our conversation you won’t hear on WLRN.

Pilar Calderon / Presidencia de Colombia

Today’s international affairs quiz: Would you rather see Venezuela denied a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council, or would you prefer to see an end to Colombia’s eternal civil war?

Pick one. Can’t have both.

That’s at least what Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told me this week during our interview in New York, where he and a host of other heads of state are gathered for the U.N. General Assembly.

El Nuevo Herald

This week’s Colombian voter poll had to feel like a back-handed compliment for President Juan Manuel Santos.

The new survey by the Bogotá research firm Ipsos-Napoleón Franco shows Santos with a 17-point lead over his closest competitor in his bid to win re-election in May. But Santos garners just 25 percent of the vote. Half of those polled said they were undecided or intend to cast a blank protest ballot. That’s hardly cause for cumbia dancing at the Casa de Nariño presidential palace.

Flickr

When I interviewed Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last year in Bogotá, he crowed about foreign investment pouring into his country. A nation considered a failed, civil war-torn narco-state less than a decade ago was now one of South America’s hottest money magnets, doubling its take from the previous year.

“This is completely out of anyone’s imagination,” Santos said.