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NYSE Chief Meets Rebel in Colombia

From Associated Press

The chairman of the New York Stock Exchange explained markets to a senior leftist guerrilla commander Saturday in Colombia’s steamy southern savanna--and invited him to Wall Street for a firsthand look.

Richard Grasso met for 1 1/2 hours with Raul Reyes of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the remote hamlet of La Machaca.

Grasso told reporters afterward that the surprise meeting, his first with a rebel chief, was intended to demonstrate to FARC leaders the support of the world financial community for Colombia’s fledgling peace process.

Stressing that his talks with a group that is on the State Department’s terrorist list were strictly private, Grasso said he hoped his visit “will mark the beginning of a new relationship between the FARC and the United States.”

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He said he explained how Colombia would benefit from the increased global investment it could expect if nearly four decades of civil conflict can be ended.

Critics of the FARC’s peasant-based leadership say it is out of touch with the modern world and needs to better grasp how the international economy works as it prepares for formal peace talks, set to begin July 7.

President Andres Pastrana invited Grasso to the unusual meeting in a rebel-controlled area demilitarized by the government.

The FARC was formed 35 years ago by communist guerrillas and controls about 40% of the Colombian countryside.

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