Juan Manuel Santos is Colombia’s current and 32nd President. He was born into the wealthy and powerful Santos family, which owned the newspaper ‘El Tiempo’ from 1913 to 2007. He began his career as a journalist with ‘El Tiempo,’ but he was always interested in politics. He began his political career in the 1970’s as a representative of Colombia’s ‘National Federation of Coffee Growers’ in London. He also received extensive education at the University of Kansas, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Harvard University. Additionally, he received a couple of fellowships. In 1981, he returned to Colombia and began working for his family’s newspaper. He was appointed to his first significant political position ten years later, when he became Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Trade. He developed an interest in the ‘Third Way’ around this time, a political centralism that combines conservative free-market capitalism with liberal social policies. He served in various capacities for a number of different Presidents before being elected President himself in 2010. Throughout much of his career, he has worked to eradicate terrorism, particularly the FARC, and to bring prosperity to Columbia through economic growth.
Childhood & Adolescence
Juan Manuel Santos is the youngest of four brothers, the others being Enrique, Luis Fernando, and Felipe. Enrique Santos Castillo and Clemencia Calderón Nieto were his parents.
Santos spent the majority of his school years at Bogotá’s ‘Colegio San Carlos,’ a bilingual boys’ school that teaches the first through twelfth grades. He graduated from the ‘Admiral Padilla Naval Cadet School’ in 1969, after enrolling in the Colombian Navy.
Santos resigned from the navy in 1971 with the rank of naval cadet NA-42 139. He then relocated to the United States of America and enrolled at the ‘University of Kansas.’ He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration two years later.
After graduating and relocating to London, he joined the ‘National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers’ as a representative at the organization’s London headquarters. He spent two years in the city attending the ‘LondonSchool of Economics and Political Science’.
In 1975, he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Economic Development.
He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s ‘JFK School of Government’ in 1981. He was also a Fulbright visiting fellow at the ‘Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’ at Tufts University.
Career of Jaun
In 1981, he returned to Colombia and began working as a columnist and sub-director at ‘El Tiempo,’ a national newspaper in which his family owned a controlling interest. Two years later, he became the paper’s director, a position he held for eight years.
He was also a Nieman visiting fellow at Harvard Business School during that time. He served as Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Trade from 1991 to 1994, during President César Gaviria Trujillo’s administration. During his tenure, he oversaw the signing of the country’s first free bi-lateral trade agreements with Mexico and Venezuela.
He was also elected President of the UNCTAD VII Conference (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).
Santos founded the ‘Good Government Foundation’ in 1994 with the goal of assisting and improving the Colombian government through increased efficiency and accountability.
He was also a member of a negotiating team that attempted to reach a peace agreement with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), a Marxist guerrilla group that has been active in the region for the last fifty years. He later became the leader of the ‘Colombian Liberal Party’ a few years later.
He served as Minister of Finance and Public Credit from 2000 to 2002, during President Andres Pastrana Arango’s administration. He established the ‘Social Party of National Unity’ in 2005. The political party expressed his support for Lavaro Uribe’s presidential campaign.
He was appointed Minister of Defense during President Lavaro Uribe’s administration in 2006, a position he held for three years. He intensified the government’s military campaign against the FARC during this time period.
He oversaw an air strike in Ecuador in March 2008 that killed FARC leader Raul Reyes and 25 of his followers and enraged Ecuador, which resented Colombia’s intrusion into its airspace.
He oversaw ‘Operation Jaque’ or ‘Checkmate’ in July 2008, a hostage rescue operation that included presidential candidate ngrid Betancourt, eleven Colombian soldiers, and three American citizens. While many lauded the operation as heroic, some objected to its use of the International Red Cross’ emblems, claiming that this violated the Geneva Conventions.
He resigned as Minister of Defense in May 2009. He then began campaigning for President. He was elected President of Colombia in June 2010. He assumed his duties two months later, following an inaugural ceremony. As President, he maintained military operations against the FARC, but he also placed a premium on economic growth.
The Colombian military assassinated FARC military chief Mono Jojoy just months after his inauguration. In August 2012, the Colombian government announced the start of negotiations with the FARC. He was re-elected President in June 2014.
Significant Works of Jaun
His 1999 book, ‘La Tercera va: Una Alternativa para Colombia,’ co-authored with Tony Blair, describes how politically centrist policies could benefit Colombia.
His 2009 autobiography, ‘Jaque al Terror: Los Horribles Aos de las FARC’ (Against Terror: The Horrible Years of the FARC), details his battles against the FARC during his tenure as Defense Minister.
Awards and Accomplishments
He was awarded the ‘Shalom Prize’ by the Latin American chapter of the ‘World Jewish Congress’ for his efforts to promote peace in Colombia and throughout the world. In October 2012, he was presented with the award.
Personal History and Legacies
Santos married film director Silvia Amaya Londoo. Three years later, they divorced and had no children. In 1987, he married Mara Clemencia Rodrguez Mnera. They met when Santos was working for ‘El Tiempo’ and have three children, Martn, Mara Antonia, and Esteban.Santos’ full name is occasionally spelled Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.
According to Spanish naming customs, the first family name is given by his father, while the second is given by his mother. The well-known politician owns a restaurant chain called “Fat Santos Burger” as well as a football team called the Bogotá Angels.
Estimated Net worth
Santos has a net worth of $215 million as of February 2015. He accumulated his wealth through a combination of stock investments and real estate holdings.