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| 1/3/2011 12:00:00 AM

Colombia's new leader seen as good for U.S.

THE WASHINGTON POST--The fiery socialist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela used to deride Juan Manuel Santos as the No. 1 "little Yankee.'' Now, as Colombia's new president, Santos calls Chavez "my new best friend.''

It has been an abrupt shift for Colombia, Washington's most stalwart ally in the hemisphere and the recipient of $9 billion in U.S. aid over the past three American administrations. But it has not been the only shift. In his four months in power, Santos has taken a series of stands strikingly at odds with those adopted by his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, who was closely tied to the United States.

In two recent interviews with The Washington Post, Santos, 59, said he realizes his moves have raised eyebrows, as much here as in Washington, which has been a steady partner in Colombia's fight against drug traffickers and a Marxist insurgency. Santos's landslide victory in a June election, after all, was seen as a message of support for the policies of Uribe.
 
"They thought that I was going to be a surrogate of President Uribe and simply follow his policies. That was absurd from the beginning,'' Santos said. "Uribe is Uribe and Santos is Santos, and Santos has a different approach."

But some current and former American officials say they think the change in power in Colombia has left the United States better off, because many South American leaders viewed Uribe as overly militaristic and had come to distrust him.
 
Read more here.

Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.

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