Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon is in Israel on a five-day official visit as part of a Middle East tour. During his visit, Vice President Calderon met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman. He is also scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres, along with other government officials.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated that the visit will focus on “the good bilateral relationship between the two countries and cooperation in the fields of security and technology.” Israel is a prime exporter of weaponry to Columbia.
Vice President Calderon will also visit the Colombian regiment stationed with the Multi-National Force in Sinai.
Colombia represents an important support element in Latin America for Israel, especially in light of the anti-Israel line led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the breaking-off of diplomatic relations with Venezuela and Bolivia after Operation Cast Lead.
Vice President Calderon began his career as a journalist, first as a reporter and later as editor of the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. In 1990, he was abducted, together with the daughter of former Colombian president Julio César Turbay, by the Medellin drug cartel, and held for eight months until his release. President Turbay's daughter was murdered after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue her.
Calderon has a close connection with the Turbay family. They are of Lebanese origin and pro-Israeli. According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, this was Calderon’s prime reason for visiting that country. After his abduction, Calderon established a non-governmental organization focused on increasing the awareness of the suffering of terror victims and their families.