The Santos administration has been holding peace talks with the FARC since late 2012 and has recently begun a campaign to seek public approval of the peace deal through a plebiscite.
However, rather than promoting the benefits of peace, Santos last Thursday warned the FARC is prepared to return to urban warfare if a peace deal does not find public approval.
On Sunday, the president told state television that “if the war continues, we do have to raise taxes to pay for it.”
The Marxist FARC, considered a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union, has violently been opposing the Colombian state since 1964.
A peace deal with Colombia’s oldest and largest guerrilla group has been a flagship policy of the president, but can count on strong opposition from conservatives who claim FARC war crimes will go unpunished under the currently negotiated terms.
“Santos is now threatening with more taxes if Colombians do not support what has been negotiated in Havana. The anguish has driven him to absolute despair.”
Senator Ernesto Macias (Democratic Center)
But also among supporters of the current peace talks Santos’ remarks raised eyebrows.
Liberal Party Senator Juan Manuel Galan reportedly rejected Santos’ remarks, claiming it is “inconvenient” to link a peace deal with the guerrillas to the country’s tax policy.
Senator Antonio Navarro of the independent Green Alliance party told reporters Santos should be given a teleprompter.
“There is more gain in showing the positive and the benefits of peace, like it for example permitting economic growth, that it will obtain harmony and save lives. This is better than telling people to vote because the wolf is coming.”
Camilo Gonzalez (conflict analyst)
Santos, who suffers one of the highest presidential disapproval ratings in decades, has already been forced to retract his comment on the FARC’s ability to take the war to the cities.
The government has yet to sign a peace deal with the guerrillas, leaving it unclear when Colombia will go to the polls to provide popular approval of the negotiations.
Nevertheless, both supporters and opponents of the deal have already been campaigning heavily to promote their side of the argument.