The Miami Herald | 6/21/2010 12:00:00 AM
Colombia's new leader must mend fences with Ecuador, Venezuela
June 21-- When newly elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos takes office Aug. 7, there will be no welcome wagon from his neighbors.
To the east is Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez has shut down trade, called Santos a regional threat and accused him of turning the country into a base-camp for the U.S. military.
As the tough-talking former minister of defense, Santos, 56, rose to prominence masterminding some of the most lethal and demoralizing blows against the nation's 50-year-old guerrilla army. But now, the longtime technocrat will have to reprise some of his lesser known roles if he hopes to mend fences, analysts said.
From 1991 to 1994, Santos was the country's first minister of commerce, where he spent much of his time hammering out trade deals with his Andean neighbors.
``I was the architect of the integration process with Venezuela and Ecuador, which generated hundreds of thousands of jobs,'' he told The Miami Herald while still on the campaign trail. ``So I will do everything within my reach to improve relations.''
Tensions have rarely been higher. In June of 2009, Venezuela virtually froze trade with Colombia -- it's No. 2 source of imports -- as it protested the FARC attack on Ecuadorean soil and the government's decision to allow U.S. forces to operate on seven Colombian bases.
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