BOGOTA -- President Alvaro Uribe has named Gabriel Silva, an executive with the National Coffee Growers Federation, to be Colombia's new defense minister, the government said Monday.
Silva will take up his post in August, the Office of the President said.
The coffee executive succeeds Juan Manuel Santos, who resigned in May and plans to run for president in 2010 if Uribe decides against seeking a third term.
Silva is a confidant of Santos.
The Defense Ministry has been run on an interim basis by Colombia's armed forces chief, Gen. Freddy Padilla de Leon, since Santos resigned.
Uribe praised "the excellent work" done by Padilla de Leon, who will continue as military commander, the Office of the President said.
Silva graduated with a degree in political science with a concentration in economics from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. He also did graduate studies in Economics and International Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. as Ford Foundation fellow.
Silva Lujan, who was the General Manager of the National Federation of Coffee Growers, has held several important positions within the public sector over the past 20 years.
He started as an Advisor for Political and Security Affairs for President Virgilio Barco between 1986 and 1990, and in the administration of President CÚsar Gaviria was Director of International Affairs, with responsibility to direct presidential diplomacy, coordinating relations with the United States and participating in formulating policy to combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
In that capacity participated in the negotiation and implementation of judicial cooperation between the two countries.
In 1993 he was appointed Ambassador to the United States, a position from which he had set in motion the trade prefences program.
Silva has also been a delegate to the Ministerial Conference of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in Belgium, UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) and on three occasions to the Meeting of Leaders of the Rio Group and the Andean Community.
He was also special adviser to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Since July 15, 2002, Silva has been CEO of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia.
Silva has also been guest lecturer at Oxford University, the Foreign Service Institute, the Brookings Institution and the U.S. National Defense University.
In addition, the new Defense Minister was visiting professor at the University of Los Andes and the Graduate Political Science program at Universidad Javeriana. He is also a columnist for the newspaper El Tiempo and the author of several books on economics, history and politics in Colombia.