Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke before the annual Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Havana, Cuba Tuesday, thanking the assembled leaders for their support in Colombia’s ongoing peace process, reported Caracol Radio.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, the country’s oldest rebel group, started in November 2012, and are being held near the summit, in the Cuban capital
“I come to thank Cuba and the region for peace,” Santos said upon arrival in Havana.
The regional summit moves to the topic of inequality Wednesday, with 33 national leaders and Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon expected to attend various discussions.
Cuban President Raul Castro inaugurated the summit Tuesday by requesting a moment of silence in tribute to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who founded the CELAC summit in 2011 in an attempt to counter US dominance in the region.
According to Caracol Radio, the Cuban president addressed poverty levels in the region and the challenges facing the international community. He also spoke of the spying carried out by the United States’ National Security Association and asked that CELAC band together to prevent United States interference in the region’s affairs.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Caracol Radio that the summit will contribute to the development of human rights in the region, and that the UN will accompany the countries in their efforts to achieve peace.
Santos will be attending a plenary session on Wednesday and is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda.
Meetings with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and Cuban President Raul Castro are not on Santos’ official agenda. Santos, however, is expected to speak with both officials at some point on Wednesday, as the two have been among the most outspoken supporters of the Colombian peace talks.
Indeed, Mujica had previously voiced his intention to bring up the ongoing peace talks as a central issue in the summit, and now the topic is expected to feature in the closing ceremony.
Despite the proximity of the summit to the talks, Santos’ office has indicated the president will not meet with the rebels during his visit to Havana.