Pope kicks off visit to Colombia aimed at building bridges

From the Washington PostBOGOTA, Colombia — Pope Francis opens the first full day in his Colombia visit on Thursday with messages to political leaders and citizens alike encouraging all to rally behind a peace process seeking an end for Latin America’s longest-running conflict and to address the inequalities that fueled it.

Francis will kick off the day with a meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos at the presidential palace, where he is likely to call for a building of bridges among elites bitterly divided by last year’s peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

It will be followed in the afternoon by an outdoor Mass in Simon Bolivar Park that is expected to be attended by hundreds of thousands of worshippers in one of Latin America’s most-fervently Roman Catholic nations.

In between, he is to meet with bishops from around the region, including his first encounter with clergy from neighboring Venezuela, who are looking for the pope to demand accountability from their country’s socialist government and deliver a message of hope to a nation torn by political and economic turmoil. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

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