* Colombian president urges Europe, U.S. to sort out their
* Santos says door open to political solution to guerrilla
By Adrian Croft
LONDON, Nov 22 Latin American countries
must act together to defend themselves from the "economic
hurricane" sweeping the industrialised world, Colombian
President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday.
"If we are facing a problem today it's not that the markets
don't trust us but quite the contrary, international capital
(is) seeking safe havens in our countries and this has caused
revaluation pressures on our currencies," Santos said in a
speech in London hosted by Canning House, an institute that
promotes stronger ties between Britain and Latin America.
This was why he had proposed this year that the 12-country
Union of South American Nations adopt joint steps to halt the
revaluation of their currencies, Santos said.
"Latin American countries will not sit by as spectators
watching how the economic and financial situation of the United
States or Europe is going to affect them," he said.
Colombia's peso reached its highest level against the U.S.
dollar for three years in July, but has weakened since then.
"Our warning signs are on and we must act together
responsibly in order to better defend ourselves from this
economic hurricane that is so much affecting the industrialised
world," he said.
Santos - elected last year - repeated his call to the United
States and European nations, wrestling with high budget deficits
and debt, to sort out their problems because disorder in the
industrialised world was affecting emerging markets.
Colombia, like other leading fast-growing emerging markets,
has shrugged off the West's economic woes and is set to grow by
more than 5.5 percent this year, Santos said earlier this week.
DREAM OF PEACE
Santos, who said earlier on Tuesday that he would prefer not
to run for president again, said the door to a political
solution to Colombia's long-running battle with Marxist
guerrillas was not closed.
"The key is in my pocket and I'm ready to open the door ...
but I need very clear indications that they (the guerrillas)
want to reach an agreement and that they are going to sit and
negotiate in good faith. I have not received that indication,"
Colombian forces killed Alfonso Cano, leader of the
country's biggest guerrilla group, the Marxist FARC, on Nov. 4,
but the insurgents vowed to fight on, dampening hopes that his
death might bring the nation closer to peace.
"Any Colombian president would dream of leaving his country
in peace after 50 years' war. I hope that happens to me but I am
not in a hurry in the sense that I will not fail again. I cannot
fail the Colombian people ... If there is good will from their
part there will be good will from my part," Santos said.
Santos, whose country has been engaged in a long fight
against cocaine traffickers, said he would not oppose
legalisation of drugs if there was strong international support
for such a move.
"From our point of view, we can't lower our guard because
for us this is a problem of national security ... but at the
same time we realize that we are not being completely successful
in the approach that we have been taking for the last 40 years
so we are very open to explore new avenues," he said.
"If the world decides there is another way of attacking this
problem, even if it means - and this a taboo word -
legalisation, I would not oppose that, I would support it. What
I would not do is lead the discussion...," he said.