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Trump Welcomes Colombia's President to White House

20 May 2017

SHAPIRO: This news conference followed a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Colombia has gone from Latin America's most prolific exporter of instability and criminality to a capable and reliable partner, working with the United States on everything from addressing citizen security in Central America to combating climate change.

The press conference is also the president's first public appearance after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to be special counsel to investigate any ties between Russian Federation and The Trump campaign. "It is a world problem and we have to all work together". After years of decreases, cocaine production is now on the rise. Santos also brought up human trafficking and illegal mining, which he said are practiced by the same networks that traffic drugs. Since then, the peace deal has been strongly challenged in Colombia by a conservative opposition party, and was even voted down in a plebiscite.

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Whereas other USA administrations have provided major political, financial and military support to Colombia, the Trump administration's position has been largely unclear with some interpreting his unannounced April meeting with former Colombian presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana as an indication of his lack of support for peace.

Later, when asked directly about the peace process, Trump said that he thought Santos had "done a fantastic job". "Zero", Trump said during the press conference.

"The drug epidemic is poisoning too many American lives, and we're going to stop it many different ways". He cited the eradication this year alone of of 15,000 hectares of coca fields, which is the amount eradicated last year.

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So when the two leaders meet this afternoon, Santos is expected to push President Trump to stay the course on aid for Colombia. Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress did approve the $450 million United States dollars in aid for 2017 that former President Barack Obama pledged last year toward the continuation of this plan, but speculation has swirled as to whether officials in Bogotá can continue to count on this level of support in the years to come. Minutes prior, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Santos outlined Colombia's extensive efforts to combat coca production and promised to team up with the US and other countries to "fight the other links of the chain, the intermediaries".

Santos, who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the war, has scheduled meetings with members of Congress and think tanks to press his cause.

"That was a long and very diplomatic answer to your question, I will say it a little bit shorter, Walls work, just ask Israel", Trump said.

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OTIS: In a speech, Santos called his plan the definitive long-term solution to Colombia's cocaine problem, but the problem has stymied numerous Colombian presidents.