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Hagel Visits Colombia

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks while flanked by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) after a meeting at the military airport in Bogota October 10, 2014. Hagel began a trip to Latin America on Thursday, and will be visiting Colombia, Peru

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently met with Colombian leaders as part of a six-day visit to South America.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently met with Colombian leaders as part of a six-day visit to South America. He praised the country’s efforts to achieve peace after decades of internal conflict, its advances in promoting security and prosperity for its citizens, and its assistance to neighbors in the hemisphere.

Hagel Visits Colombia
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Hagel noted the growing international role of Colombian security forces, including the Colombian National Police. “Colombia,” said Mr. Hagel, “continues to expand its role as a security exporter, having helped train tens of thousands of security personnel for more than 40 nations,” including Central American countries that are struggling against transnational criminal organizations and gangs.

“To have countries like Colombia stepping up and showing the kind leadership that Colombia has shown, with the kind of capacity, capabilities, training that they have,” said Secretary Hagel, “is a huge asset to the world.” As Defense Secretary Hagel noted, “Threats today in the world know no boundaries, whether they come from climate change or terrorism or transnational criminal networks.”

The Colombian military has honed its skills in the decades-long battle against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, while incorporating protection of human rights as an integral part its doctrine. For years, U.S. and Colombian forces have trained together and shared battlefield lessons learned. “Through initiatives such as our Joint Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation, Colombia and the United States continue to work together to build security across this hemisphere and beyond.”

The United States has provided more than $50 million in defense funding to Colombia in the last fiscal year, as part of $324 million in bilateral programs supporting human rights and the rule of law, economic development, and efforts to combat transnational crime. The United States, said Defense Secretary Hagel, remains “absolutely committed” to its partnership with Colombia.