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Biden lauds peace talks, economic gains, partnership in Colombia visit

BOGOTA, May 28 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised Colombian President Juan Manuel Santo’s work to end his country’s civil war and closer economic ties.

Biden and Santo met Monday in Bogota, discussing energy, education, the environment, trade, security, drug trafficking and the two countries’ relationship, among other issues of mutual interest.

“President Santos and I talked about how we can continue our work together, advance environmental and labor standards, support small and women-owned businesses, ensure that the dynamism of the Colombian economy touches every region of the country and every family in the country,” Biden said during a news conference.

“As I said in our meeting, the United States does not look at the progress of any nation or any group of nations as a zero-sum game,” Biden said. “The more that the Alliance of the Pacific [a Latin American bloc] prospers, the better for everyone in the region. The more that we engage with one another, the better for all of us.”

“You have a friend with us. We see our country as a strategic partner of the United States,” Santos said through an interpreter during a joint news conference with Biden. “I think that’s the proper interpretation of our relations. And as we talked this morning, these relations are going through their best time.”

“But as any other relationship that we have, they can continue to improve, and that is the aim that both countries have with a view to the future,” Santos said.

Since emerging from its civil war, “Colombia is embracing a new mission, and that is locking in your economic and security gains that gave you so much to win and building a just and durable peace,” Biden said. “And our relationship has evolved to reflect just that.”

Noting that “no Colombian needs to be told this story,” the vice president said he wanted “to pay a personal tribute to you and to the people of Colombia for the remarkable, remarkable progress you’ve made just since last I was here” nearly 13 years ago.

“I meant what I said when I said it’s long past the time when America looks out and says, what can we do for you? It is not just with the Colombian people, but the entire hemisphere: What can we do with other countries in the hemisphere to benefit all of us?” Biden said.

Colombia is the first stop of Biden’s trip, which includes visits to Trinidad and Tobago, where he will meet with Caribbean leaders, and Brazil.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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