Juan Manuel Santos Calderón is the 32nd and current President of Colombia, in office since 2010. He was Minister of Defense from 2006 to 2009.
An economist by profession and a journalist by trade, Santos is a member of the wealthy and influential Santos family, who from 1913 to 2007 were the majority shareholders of the El Tiempo newspaper until its sale in 2007 to Planeta DeAgostini. Shortly after graduating from the University of Kansas, he joined the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia as an economic advisor and delegate to the International Coffee Organization in London, where he also attended the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1981, he was appointed deputy director of El Tiempo, becoming its director two years later.
In 1991, he was appointed by President César Gaviria Trujillo as Colombia’s first Minister of Foreign Trade. Santos worked in expanding international trade with Colombia, and worked in creating various agencies for this purpose including: Proexport, Bancoldex, and Fiducoldex. In 2000, he was appointed by President Andrés Pastrana Arango as the 64th Minister of Finance and Public Credit.
Santos rose to prominence during the Administration of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. In 2005, he co-founded and led the Social Party of National Unity (Party of the U), a liberal-conservative party coalition that backed the policies of President Uribe, successfully supporting his attempt to seek a Constitutional reform to be able to run for a second term. In 2006, after Uribe was re-elected, and the Party of the U won a majority of seats in both chambers of Congress, Santos was appointed Minister of National Defence, and continued defending the security policies of President Uribe, taking a strong and forceful stance against FARC and the other guerrilla groups operating in Colombia. He oversaw rescue operations of hostages, including Operation Jaque that led to the rescue of former presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt, three American citizens, and 11 other members of the Colombian Army that had been held for several years. Though widely viewed as a heroic endeavour that cemented Santos’ popularity, the rescue was criticised for misappropriating emblems of the International Red Cross, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.