Colombians had reason to celebrate last week. The national soccer team trounced Greece and Ivory Coast in its two first-round World Cup games, and President Juan Manuel Santos was elected to a second term.
Mr. Santos won fewer votes than challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in the initial presidential election on May 25, but neither candidate captured a majority. In the June 15 runoff, however, Mr. Santos received 51 percent of the vote.
The election was largely viewed as a referendum on peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which Mr. Santos initiated in 2012. Prior to Mr. Santos' re-election, his government announced that it also would begin preliminary peace negotiations with the nation's second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).
The runoff outcome is major victory for stability and economic growth in the region and helps ensure not just the continuation of the FARC peace process but also sustained ties between the United States and one of its closest allies in Latin America.
But Mr. Santos' first international appearance in his second term wasn't in Havana, where the FARC peace talks have been held. He traveled to Brazil, where he applauded Colombia's national soccer team as it defeated the Ivory Coast, 2-1, last Thursday.
It was a smart populist move in a country that cares about soccer almost as much as it cares about politics.
And it enabled Mr. Santos to briefly upstage Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who has been trying to spin the World Cup as further proof of Brazil's status as a world power. But she has only been partly successful at drawing headlines away from ongoing street protests sparked in part by government spending on the soccer tournament and the country's lagging economic growth.
For all of their continuing struggles, Brazil and Colombia have arrived as major economic players, and they are not turning back.
Vice President Joe Biden congratulated Mr. Santos in person when he traveled to Bogota last Wednesday as part of a larger Latin American tour designed to show the Obama administration's renewed commitment to the region. The tour also included stops in Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Santos' victory strengthens Colombia's bid to become South America's next international economic success story. The United States should continue to support Mr. Santos' openness to foreign investment in Colombia - and his efforts for peace in the region.
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