Colombia President Santos Will Run for Re-election; Defends FARC Talks

Image: Colombia President Santos Will Run for Re-election; Defends FARC Talks

Friday, 22 Nov 2013 04:48 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has announced he will run for re-election next year, officially entering a race that will be in large part a referendum on his efforts to end the decades-long war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist insurgent group.
Santos made the announcement in a nationally televised address, in which he said there have been “important advances” toward ending the conflict, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Earlier this month, Bogota and FARC reached a deal that could allow the guerrilla group to become a political party and back candidates for any government office — including president of the country. The two sides have also agreed on land reform.

The sides have not agreed on subjects that include reaching a cease-fire and ensuring that the rebels disarm; weaning the FARC from the narcotics trade; and providing restitution to victims of Colombia’s long war.

The opposition is led by former President Alvaro Uribe, who Santos served under as Colombian defense minister. Uribe’s endorsement helped Santos win the 2010 presidential election, according to the Journal.

But the two men have clashed during Santos’ presidency, with Uribe accusing his successor of abandoning an earlier promise to defeat the rebels militarily.

In announcing for re-election, however, Santos vowed to continue working for a peace accord, the Financial Times reported.

“I am doing this because when one sees the light at the end of the tunnel, one cannot turn back,” he said. “And we won’t do it. We cannot fall by the wayside.”

Uribe, who served as president from 2002 to 2010, scored military successes against the FARC, and he remains popular with many Colombians. But he is barred by the Colombian constitution from running for president again and has endorsed former Colombian Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

According to the Journal, Santos' re-election bid could be bolstered by stronger economic growth, which increased by 4.2 percent in the second quarter, compared to a 2.8 boost in the first quarter.

In September Santos — dogged by popular dissatisfaction with agricultural strikes and a lack of movement in FARC talks — saw his approval rating fall to around 20 percent.

But his approval ratings have bounced back up to 37 percent, and polls show he would be re-elected if the vote took place now, the Journal reported.

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