(WASHINGTON) — President Trump had an undisclosed rendezvous with two former Colombian presidents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week, and in the process injected himself into a contentious political battle over Colombia’s peace deal that seeks to end the Western hemisphere’s longest-running war.
The previously undisclosed encounter was confirmed today by the White House, with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ saying that former Presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe “were there with a member from the club and briefly said hello when the president walked past them.”
“There wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello,” Sanders said.
She declined to answer why the meeting was not publicly disclosed. It’s unclear when it occurred.
Asked about the meeting during the daily White House press briefing Wednesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I don’t have anything for you at this time.”
The encounter came to light last Friday when Pastrana tweeted, “Thank you to @POTUS @realDonaldTrump for the cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives of Colombia and the region.”
— Andrés Pastrana A (@AndresPastrana_) April 15, 2017
Uribe and Pastrana are strong critics of a historic peace deal recently struck between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the Colombian government, a strong U.S. ally in South America.
The two former presidents are also harsh critics of sitting President Juan Manuel Santos — an architect of the peace deal — who is expected to meet with Trump next month.
Santos’ spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump’s encounter with the former presidents when asked by ABC News.
Trump spoke by phone with Santos in February. “Both Presidents discussed U.S. support for Colombia’s effort to create a just and lasting peace in its 52-year conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC),” the White House said at the time.
According to a VOA News article from the time, citing Santos’ aides, Santos asked Trump on the call for support in getting the U.S. congress to approve funding that would help facilitate the peace process.
The Obama Administration strongly supported the Colombian government’s efforts during the peace deal negotiations.
Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his work on the peace deal.
Conflict between the Colombian government and the marxist FARC rebels has dragged on in varying intensity for more than 50 years. Estimates put the death toll at more than 220,000 people.
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