Colombia “fully identifies with the government of Cristina (Fernandez de Kirchner)” because it shares democratic values and welfare and development objectives, said President Juan Manuel Santos the first Colombian leader on an official visit to Argentina for over a decade.
“This is not one more official visit, it’s the launching of bilateral relations with a friend with whom, and with time, institutional links prospered but above all links that helped untie conflicts that seemed insoluble”, said President Cristina Fernandez on receiving her peer in Casa Rosada on Thursday.
Therefore “we are very happy you accepted the invitation to Argentina”, said Mrs Kirchner.
“We can say Colombia is synchronized with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s policies” underlined Santos after both leaders stamped their signatures on several agreements intended to promote commercial ties including urban and long distance transportation, ports, waterways, and technological exchange.
Santos said he has visited Argentina on several occasions but this was his first as Colombian president and admitted it was over a decade that “a president from my country did not come to Argentina on an official visit”.
However he recalled having come to Argentina on a very sad day, the funeral of former president Nestor Kirchner “to whom I dedicate a special tribute: he was a person who played a crucial role in the establishment of relations with Venezuela and Ecuador, and from then on that event significantly improved regional relations”.
Further on he called “to work together, share spaces and strengthen relations among countries of the region, so we can better defend ourselves and even take advantage of that world turbulence, --almost a hurricane-- that could see us come out better prepared if we act as a group”.
The Colombian president who succeeded Alvaro Uribe, a close ally of the Washington and who had strained relations with Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina, said he hoped the eight agreements signed in Buenos Aires are the launching pad “to help create better welfare conditions for our peoples and for the region”.
However Santos emphasized the role of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in the G-20. “They belong to a group, the G-20 of the most advanced global economies, which is taking fundamental decisions in the economic and financial fields and we are convinced that if the three act as the only voice of Latin America, we will all be stronger”.
The event at Casa Rosada included a private meeting between the two leaders who were later joined by several of their ministers.
Colombian president Santos is a growing influence in the region now that Brazil’s Lula da Silva has left office and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has limited activities because of his cancer treatment process.
Undoing his predecessor’s strong stance, Santos made peace with Ecuador and Venezuela, and defused suspicions he was too close to Washington. He brokered the return of outcast Honduras to the Organization of American States and other regional bodies and was the promoter of recent Unasur strong statements and commitments in the midst of the global crisis.
With a booming economy which promotes the private sector and foreign investment, a strong political backing and the several decades old Marxist-guerrilla on the run, Santos has also shown the necessary clout to nurture excellent relations with all of South American leaders and could rapidly fill the void left by Lula da Silva and Chavez.