April 21, 2017
The previously undisclosed meeting was dedicated to discussing Colombia’s ongoing peace negotiations between leftist guerrillas and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government. The White House confirmed on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump met with former right-wing Colombian presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims the encounter “wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello” and that Uribe and Pastrana “briefly said hello when the president walked past them,” ABC News reports.
Pastrana, however, posted a tweet thanking Trump for having a “cordial and frank conversation about Colombia’s problems,” implying that the encounter was more than just a meet-and-greet.
When asked about the meeting during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I don’t have anything for you at this time.”
Trump’s meeting with Uribe and Pastrana may signal growing U.S. involvement in Colombia’s peace negotiations, which began in September 2012.
Uribe and Pastrana are outspoken representatives of the hardline faction opposing dialogue and reconciliation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and the National Liberation Army, ELN. Frequently criticizing Santos for seeking rapprochement with both groups, Uribe and Pastrana favor head-on military confrontation with the Marxist-Leninist rebels.
Both former presidents oversaw mass killings of rebels and campesinos who they claimed were linked to the FARC and ELN.
Uribe’s term in office in particular was marked by record-level human rights abuses and numbers of people fleeing the country as refugees. He has also been accused of links to far-right paramilitary groups and also oversaw the “false positives” scandal.
The “false positives” scandal broke in 2008, revealing a concerted military strategy of murdering civilians, including homeless and mentally ill people, and dressing them in guerrilla fatigues to boost the government’s body count in the war on rebels.
More than 3,000 people were killed as “false positives” during Uribe’s two terms in office.