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At embassy party, Colombian president and a VIP crowd celebrate anniversary of U.S. aid deal

At a swank party at the residence of the Colombian ambassador Thursday night, there were generals and senators, CEOs and governors. There was even a "Mr. President" — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos — on hand to celebrate the 15th anniversary of a landmark aid deal between his country and the United States, as well as a soon-to-be-inked pact between his government and guerrillas that's expected to end decades of war.

Although enough "Honorables" filled the wood-paneled room to staff a few blue-chip committees, nobody was looking starstruck. That is, until a woman with the lowly title of "Miss" walked in. Make that Miss Colombia, as in Ariadna Gutierrez, the beauty pageant queen who was briefly crowned Miss Universe in the December contest until the host realized he'd announced the wrong winner. The incident, which played out before millions on live TV, riled Colombians (Santos even tweeted about the switcheroo) and clogged Facebook feeds worldwide.

Necks craned. Partygoers shot glances past the tete-a-tete between retired Gen. David Petraeus and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), over the heads of former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright.

And that's the moment it became clear that even Washington's most powerful movers and shakers are just folks, too. "My wife and I thought she handled that well," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). "Very graciously."

"That really was something," Albright said of the pageant flap.

Gutierrez, though, looked serene, and although she's Amazonian-tall and was wearing a full-length evening gown amid a crowd of suits, quite willing to blend in. "Today, I feel like any Colombian," she said. "Just so proud of my country." Her day included a visit to the White House, where Santos and President Obama marked the anniversary of the so-called Plan Colombia, a $1.3 billion aid package adopted under President Bill Clinton that's enjoyed rare bipartisan support and success-story status over the years.

Colombian Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón, who greeted guests at the door with his wife, Pilar, called the launch of a new phase of Plan Colombia a "momentous occasion." The dinner party was just a little thank you, he said, to the people who helped make it happen, those who "believe in the vision that there is much our two nations can accomplish together."

Other guests included Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), IMF director Christine Lagarde, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, AOL founder Steve Case, Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith.

[Source: By Emily Heil, The Washington Post, 07Feb16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 10Feb16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.