Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez attend a press conference in the capital, Bogota, on October 7, 2016, after Mr Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize. Leonardo Munoz/EPA
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez attend a press conference in the capital, Bogota, on October 7, 2016, after Mr Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize. Leonardo

Juan Manuel Santos’s path to a Nobel Peace Prize



Although Juan Manuel Santos won a landslide victory to become president of Colombia in 2010, some of his countrymen attribute his success more to his privileged background than his ability as a politician.

“The presidency was his before he was out of short trousers. The first election Santos ever faced was that to become president. It was handed to him on a plate,” said one editorial, three years into his presidency.

And it is true that politics is in his blood. His great-uncle Eduardo was president from 1938 until 1942 and his cousin, Francisco, was vice president in the previous government. His family were majority shareholders of Colombia’s most important newspaper, El Tiempo which Mr Santos’ father, Enrique, edited for more than 50 years.

It is also true that his family were wealthy and influential. As a boy, the young Juan Manuel attended a private secondary school in Bogota. He then spent two years in the Colombian navy before continuing his education abroad, firstly at the University of Kansas in the US, then at the London School of Economics, where he gained a master’s degree in economic development while also serving as Colombia’s representative in the International Coffee Organisation. He then returned to the US and graduated from the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a master’s degree in public administration.

He returned to Colombia aged 30 and went straight into the family business as deputy director of El Tiempo and a steady rise up the political ladder, serving as minister of foreign trade and minister of finance and public credit.

But it was his tenure as minister of defence from 2006 to 2009 that paved the path towards the presidency for him.

He was instrumental in carrying out the “democratic security policy” of his predecessor, president Alvar Uribe, aimed at increasing the presence of the security forces throughout the country and driving back Colombia’s left-wing rebel roup, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as Farc.

He dealt several blows to the Marxist insurgents which had waged a guerrilla war in Colombia since the 1960s.He oversaw Operation Checkmate, the successful rescue by the military of 15 high-profile hostages, including the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans, who had been held captive by Farc. The operation involved the misuse of an International Committee of the Red Cross symbol. Mr Santos sanctioned a daring Colombian army operation on New Year’s Eve, 2006, to rescue the politician Fernando Araujo Perdomo from six years of captivity as a Farc hostage.

Most controversially, he was in charge when the Colombian military mounted a controversial air raid across the border into Ecuador, attacking a guerrilla camp and killing senior Farc leader Raul Reyes and 25 other people.

The death of Reyes was described as a major blow to Farc, but Ecuador was furious over the violation of its airspace.

In 2008, Mr Santos admitted that the military had carried out extrajudiciary executions to bump up the army’s record against guerrillas and claim rewards from the government, but an independent investigation by the UN found no evidence that the executions were part of official government policy.

Mr Santos resigned as defence minister in May 2009. Thirteen months later, he was elected president. Two years later he announced the Colombian government was in exploratory talks with Farc about ending the conflict.

He ran for president again in 2014, under the slogan, “We have done much, there is much to be done.”

He won — although by a much smaller margin than his 2010 landslide — but in his first post-election address to supporters he made clear what he meant by his campaign slogan.

“This is the end of 50 years of conflict in this country and it is the beginning of a new Colombia,” he said.

In September 2016, almost four years after those first discussions with Farc, president Santos was able to announce the two sides had reached an agreement, and that after 52 years, more than 260,000 killings, 45,000 unsolved disappearances and seven million people sent fleeing from their homes, the war with Farc was over.

Wearing matching white shirts, the 65-year-old president and Farc leader Rodrigo Londono (also known by the alias Timochenko) signed the peace deal on September 26, using pens made from bullet casings. The deal ensured rebels would be spared prison if they confessed their crimes and gave up their weapons. Farc was also promised ten seats in the Colombian congress until 2026 to ensure the group’s smooth transition to a political movement.

Even with peace as the prize, for many Colombians, allowing killers and kidnappers to avoid trial, let alone punishment, was too high a price. When the peace deal was put to referendum on October 2, the people said “No.”

Though he was undoubtedly disappointed, even shocked, by the vote, president Santos vowed to keep talking to the rebels.

The Norwegian Nobel committee said it had awarded the Peace prize to Mr Santos because, “The referendum was not a vote for or against peace. What the ‘no’side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.”

It is a sentiment that will no doubt spur the Colombian president to keep going.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

If you go

The flights
Emirates and Etihad fly direct to Nairobi, with fares starting from Dh1,695. The resort can be reached from Nairobi via a 35-minute flight from Wilson Airport or Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, or by road, which takes at least three hours.

The rooms
Rooms at Fairmont Mount Kenya range from Dh1,870 per night for a deluxe room to Dh11,000 per night for the William Holden Cottage.

Three tips from La Perle's performers

1 The kind of water athletes drink is important. Gwilym Hooson, a 28-year-old British performer who is currently recovering from knee surgery, found that out when the company was still in Studio City, training for 12 hours a day. “The physio team was like: ‘Why is everyone getting cramps?’ And then they realised we had to add salt and sugar to the water,” he says.

2 A little chocolate is a good thing. “It’s emergency energy,” says Craig Paul Smith, La Perle’s head coach and former Cirque du Soleil performer, gesturing to an almost-empty open box of mini chocolate bars on his desk backstage.

3 Take chances, says Young, who has worked all over the world, including most recently at Dragone’s show in China. “Every time we go out of our comfort zone, we learn a lot about ourselves,” she says.

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Specs

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Max power: 800hp
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Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

School counsellors on mental well-being

Schools counsellors in Abu Dhabi have put a number of provisions in place to help support pupils returning to the classroom next week.

Many children will resume in-person lessons for the first time in 10 months and parents previously raised concerns about the long-term effects of distance learning.

Schools leaders and counsellors said extra support will be offered to anyone that needs it. Additionally, heads of years will be on hand to offer advice or coping mechanisms to ease any concerns.

“Anxiety this time round has really spiralled, more so than from the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Priya Mitchell, counsellor at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

“Some have got used to being at home don’t want to go back, while others are desperate to get back.

“We have seen an increase in depressive symptoms, especially with older pupils, and self-harm is starting younger.

“It is worrying and has taught us how important it is that we prioritise mental well-being.”

Ms Mitchell said she was liaising more with heads of year so they can support and offer advice to pupils if the demand is there.

The school will also carry out mental well-being checks so they can pick up on any behavioural patterns and put interventions in place to help pupils.

At Raha International School, the well-being team has provided parents with assessment surveys to see how they can support students at home to transition back to school.

“They have created a Well-being Resource Bank that parents have access to on information on various domains of mental health for students and families,” a team member said.

“Our pastoral team have been working with students to help ease the transition and reduce anxiety that [pupils] may experience after some have been nearly a year off campus.

"Special secondary tutorial classes have also focused on preparing students for their return; going over new guidelines, expectations and daily schedules.”

JOKE'S ON YOU

Google wasn't new to busting out April Fool's jokes: before the Gmail "prank", it tricked users with mind-reading MentalPlex responses and said well-fed pigeons were running its search engine operations .

In subsequent years, they announced home internet services through your toilet with its "patented GFlush system", made us believe the Moon's surface was made of cheese and unveiled a dating service in which they called founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page "Stanford PhD wannabes ".

But Gmail was all too real, purportedly inspired by one – a single – Google user complaining about the "poor quality of existing email services" and born "millions of M&Ms later".

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Indoor Cricket World Cup Dubai 2017

Venue Insportz, Dubai; Admission Free

Fixtures - Open Men 2pm: India v New Zealand, Malaysia v UAE, Singapore v South Africa, Sri Lanka v England; 8pm: Australia v Singapore, India v Sri Lanka, England v Malaysia, New Zealand v South Africa

Fixtures - Open Women Noon: New Zealand v England, UAE v Australia; 6pm: England v South Africa, New Zealand v Australia


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