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Obama congratulates Colombia's new president Santos on military raid

By Scott Wilson

NEW YORK -- President Obama on Friday congratulated Colombia's new president, Juan Manuel Santos, on Friday for the Colombian army operation that killed the military leader of Colombia's largest guerrilla insurgency.

Meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama and Santos, who have a Harvard degree in common, signaled that the death Thursday of Jorge Briceño, the often brutal military commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), would help the Colombian government end the generations-long civil war.

"The people of Colombia have been plagued by this terrorist insurgency for a very long time," Obama said before their meeting.

Obama called Thursday - when Briceño, whose nom de guerre was "Mono Jojoy," was killed in a military raid on his camp - "a big day" for Colombia. And he said he would use the meeting with Santos -- their first -- to examine "how we can improve cooperation" in areas beyond security, such as economic relations and social development issues.

Santos, a former defense minister elected president in June to succeed Alvaro Uribe, has pledged to carry on with his predecessor's security policies while devoting more money to social issues in the Andean region's largest country.

Sitting next to Obama, Santos said Colombia is entering a "new era" of increased security, adding that opportunity would allow his government to "turn to a more progressive agenda."

Obama has yet to travel to South America, although he attended a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in April 2009.

He once told Uribe, who was prevented from running again by term limits, that Colombia would be a stop on his first trip to the continent, a pledge Santos most likely would like him to carry out.

MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST:

READ: The Post's Lally Weymouth interviews Santos

By Scott Wilson  | September 24, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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