President Ivan Duque on Thursday swore in Francisco Santos, the cousin of former President Juan Manuel Santos, as Colombia’s ambassador in the United States.
Santos, who inherited much of his political power, will be in charge of maintaining ties with the administration of US President Donald Trump.
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Colombia’s new ambassador to the US is controversial, mainly because he has been accused of aligning himself with far-right AUC paramilitaries in 1997 when he was editor-in-chief of family newspaper El Tiempo.
Within the strategy of obtaining political recognition and expressing ourselves to the nation, commander [Carlos] Castaño sought to build bridges to the media with the intention of showing reality and seeking allies who agreed with the paramilitary ideology, which is how I knew the then journalist Francisco Santos.
His receptiveness surprised me when we met … Santos praised the model we exposed, how we operated in Cordoba …. Among circles in the capital there was concern about the advance of the guerrillas, how they were approaching the capital, which could not be allowed because democracy would be affected, according to what Santos said.
Santos has been a long-time ally of Duque’s political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, who is also facing accusations of ties to the paramilitaries that escalated the armed conflict to unprecedented levels of violence.
Santos was appointed Uribe’s vice-president when taking office in 2002. Duque has now asked the dynasty politician and former media mogul to “strengthen the bilateral relations between Colombia and the United States, [and] along with me ‘de-narcofy’ them, which is what we want most.”
Duque also asked Santos to “continue strengthening the military and commercial cooperation” between the two countries.
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The president said that his latest controversial appointee is “a man of transparent soul, thought and words” who “knows how to call things by their name.”