It’s been a seemingly never-ending war in Colombia – the past 50 years rebel factions have been fighting the Colombian government in a battle that has killed and displaced thousands.
But Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said the there is finally an end in sight.
Speaking at his alma mater, the University of Kansas, Santos said he is hopeful that negotiations with guerrilla fighters will result in peace for his nation.
Ahead of receiving an award from the university, he said peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, would be welcome news for the South American country and the entire region.
“The conflict with FARC needs to have a negotiated way out. They have the will; we have the will,” the president said.
Santos graduated from University of Kansas in 1973 and earned degrees in economics and business. This was his first trip back to the campus since he graduated. He visited the places where he lived and studied, including walking by Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks play basketball.
“It was here that the seed was put and it has been growing for the past 40 years,” he said.
Santos was being honored with the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, the highest honor given by the College of Liberal Arts and Science. He was to give a lecture and take questions before departing for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Santos said the gathering has a lot to discuss, including the troubles in the Middle East and the ongoing financial crisis across Europe.
Santos said ending the violence with FARC would be “the end of a very sad chapter in our history” and show that Colombia was successful in working toward democracy, freedom and the rule of law. He said ending the violence would improve relations with Colombia’s neighbors and the United States by eliminating a source of friction.
Ending the fighting against FARC would also allow Colombia to focus all its efforts on fighting the ongoing drug trade, he said.
Santos also hailed the recent capture of one of Colombia’s most-wanted drug lords with the help of the Venezuelan government.
Colombian officials said Daniel Barrera, 50, had been in Venezuela since 2008 and owned ranches worth millions of dollars. Barrera, known as “El Loco,” or “The Madman,” was captured Sept. 18.
U.S. and Colombian officials have alleged that Barrera’s gang supplies cocaine to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, which ships drugs to the United States.