Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia (since August 8, 2010; re-elected on Jun 15, 2014)
Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (born 10 August 1951) is the former Minister of National Defense, and the current President of the Republic of Colombia after winning the 2010 Colombian presidential election on June 20, 2010.
Juan Manuel Santos spent most of his childhood in Bogotá and attended middle school and a part of his high school years at Colegio San Carlos. His last years of high school were spent as a Cadet in the Escuela Naval de Cartagena (Naval Academy of Cartagena), from which he graduated. He continued his studies in the University of Kansas obtaining a degree in Economics and Business Administration. While attending the University of Kansas he joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He later acquired master’s degrees in Economics, Economic Development and Public Administration in the London School of Economics, in business and journalism from Harvard, and in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Juan Manuel Santos has been Chief Executive of the Colombian Coffee Delegation to the International Coffee Organization in London, Sub-Director of his family owned newspaper El Tiempo and a columnist for 14 different newspapers. He was Minister of Foreign Trade during the administration of president César Gaviria in 1991. In 1992 he was appointed President of the VII United Nations Conference on Trade and Development for a period of four years. In 1999 he was appointed as President of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and served as
Director of the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) for the period 2001–2002.
Since September of 1994 he was the head of Good Government Foundation organization which presented the proposal of a demilitarized zone and made it possible to have peace talks with the FARC guerrilla.
Santos also founded the Social National Unity Party (Party of the U) to support the presidency of Álvaro Uribe. He was named Minister of Defense on July 19, 2006. During his tenure as Defense Minister the administration dealt a series of blows against the FARC guerrilla group, including the rescue of Fernando Araújo Perdomo, the death of FARC Secretariat member Raul Reyes in a March 2, 2008 air strike against a guerrilla camp located within Ecuador’s borders, and the non-violent rescue of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt held captive since 2002, along with fourteen other hostages, including three Americans.
Juan Manuel Santos announced his resignation from the Defense Ministry on May 18, 2009. Santos said that his resignation did not necessarily imply tossing his hat into the 2010 presidential race and that his participation in the electoral race depended on whether Uribe would pursue a third term, which he was willing to support. His resignation took effect on May 23, 2009, and shortly after, officially launched his campaigning session for the presidency of the Republic of Colombia.
On June 20th of 2010, after two rounds of elections, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón was officially elected as President-Elect of the Republic of Colombia.
During his time as Colombian Defense Minister, several controversial events took place.
1. A military raid inside of Ecuador’s territory to kill the FARC leader Raul Reyes. CNN news
2. Misuse of an International Committee of the Red Cross symbol during Operation Jaque. CNN News
3. On November 4, 2008, Santos admitted that the Colombian military had carried out extrajudicial executions and pledged to resolve the issue. Source El Espectador
These executions were labeled as ‘false positives’ referring to the fact that members of the military had purposely carried out these executions in order to artificially increase the number of guerrillas killed by the Army and claim rewards from the government.
In March 2010, Santos publicly stated that these executions had stopped since October 2008 and that this had been confirmed by the CINEP, one of Colombia’s foremost human right defense institutions. Semana, a well respected Colombian journal, reported that a few days later the CINEP responded to Santos’s declarations by issuing a press release which stated that, while the number of reported cases had been significantly reduced after the Defense Ministry’s measures were announced, the period between November 2008 and December 2009 still saw 7 such executions and 2 arbitrary detentions.
Santos is part of one of the most traditional families in Colombia. His grandfather’s brother Eduardo Santos was President of Colombia from 1938 to 1942 and owner and Director of the newspaper El Tiempo. His father Enrique Santos Castillo was editor of this newspaper for at least 50 years. His brother Enrique Santos Calderon was Director of the same newspaper for 10 years until it was sold to Grupo Planeta of Spain. His cousin Francisco Santos is President Álvaro Uribe’s Vice President.