Colombia

Rubio to visit Colombia to talk trade, security

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (L) shake hands with president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos Calderón before their bilateral meeting on November 04, 2014 in Brussels.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (L) shake hands with president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos Calderón before their bilateral meeting on November 04, 2014 in Brussels. AFP/Getty Images

Fresh on the heels of midterm elections and stumping for Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will be traveling to Colombia for two days starting Wednesday to meet with government officials, business leaders and civil society organizations, his office said.

The Republican lawmaker will be traveling in his capacity as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His agenda will focus on Colombia’s security gains, enhanced trade and combating human trafficking.

“Colombia is a key U.S. ally, and Florida has also benefited from all of the security and economic gains they have made in recent decades,” Rubio said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing for myself all the positive results of the U.S.-Colombia relationship to date, and hearing Colombians’ perspectives on what must be done going forward.”

Florida is home to the largest Colombian community in the United States and accounts for more trade with Colombia than any other state. Rubio’s wife is also the daughter of Colombian immigrants.

His visit comes as President Juan Manuel Santos is in Europe trying to drum up support for the ongoing peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest guerrilla group.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Tuesday in Brussels, Santos asked for support and leniency as he tries to end the hemisphere’s oldest and bloodiest civil conflict.

One of the most delicate issues will be how to establish a transitional justice regime lax enough to keep the FARC at the table but strict enough to assuage fears that guerrilla commanders — considered terrorists by the United States and Colombia — are punished for their crimes.

Rubio is among the U.S. lawmakers who have voiced concerns that the peace deal may be too lenient.

On Tuesday, Santos said he needs international backing to push through a deal that “will allow us to reach a peace that is lasting and sustainable.”

On Wednesday, Santos will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before heading to Portugal and France.

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