On Friday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced his nation’s intentions to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize after brokering peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, started his nation down this road by establishing a formal partnership with the alliance in May of last year. Although Colombia is eyeing a spot as NATO’s 30th member state, it will remain in “global partner” status, which means they will be fully accredited within the alliance but may not have to participate in NATO military endeavors.

Earlier on Friday, Santos also announced Colombia’s acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). On Friday Santos told Colombian media,

Colombia benefits a lot from being an active part of the international community, many of the problems we face are increasingly global and need the support and collaboration of other countries for their solution. Being part of the OECD and NATO improves the image of Colombia and allows us to have much more play on the international stage … We will formalize in Brussels next week — and this is very important — the entry of Colombia into NATO in the category of global partner, we will be the only country in Latin America with this privilege.”

NATO is a military and political alliance that was originally founded as a means to counter the aggressive expansion of communism via Soviet conquest and influence campaigns. Its original 12 signatory members has grown over time to include 29 nations that have made a mutual agreement to not only support the spread of democratic values, but to come to the aid of one another in times of conflict. Each NATO member state is required to devote two percent of its gross domestic production to military and defense spending, though many nations continue to fail to meet that obligation.

Colombia’s decision to join NATO has not come without controversy, however. Nearby Venezuela, a socialist nation currently in turmoil, has voiced strong opposition to Colombia’s entrance into the NATO alliance. Venezuela has repeatedly accused Colombia of introducing nuclear weapons to the continent through the agreement, simply by associating with nuclear nations like the United States and UK. A statement from Venezuela’s foreign ministry said,

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Venezuela denounces once more before the international community the intention of Colombian authorities to lend themselves to introduce, in Latin America and the Caribbean, a foreign military alliance with nuclear capacity, which in every way constitutes a serious threat for peace and regional stability,”

The United States and a number of other NATO nations, it’s important to note, recently questioned the validity of the recent Venezuelan national election, which saw President Nicolás Maduro secure a second six-year term amid widespread allegations of corruption and a growing economic crises. Accusations that the election itself was not conducted in a free or fair manner prompted the U.S. to choose not to acknowledge its outcome, further deteriorating relations between the two nations, and likely pressing Venezuela to further protest Colombia’s entry into NATO — which relies heavily on U.S. military force and influence.

As far as Santos is concerned, however, bringing Colombia into NATO and the OECD is an important next step in the nation’s future — and something he hoped to secure prior to departing office later this year.

“Today, we took another very important step towards a better future. It’s like graduating from the best university, but with the commitment to continue studying and maintain good grades for the rest of our lives,” Santos said.

Featured image: Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, right, passes through a Colombian honor guard with Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez, commander of Colombia’s armed forces, as he departs Bogota, Colombia, March 10, 2016. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro