The re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday helps the peace process that officially begins next week in Norway’s capital Oslo, said FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda on Tuesday.
Granda said that the Venezuelan president created a climate of confidence as a facilitator in the peace talks, and referred to how Chavez had aided in negotiations to help in the release of hostages in the past, most notably the release of three Americans and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2008.
“It helps to equalize the respective positions,” said Granda adding, “Chavez has great authority because he doesn’t have any personal ambitions.”
Chavez was re-elected for his fourth term as president with 54% of the vote on Sunday over his opponent Henrique Capriles, who had previously accused the Venezuelan president of being an accomplice of the Colombian guerrillas.
The FARC negotiator Granda said however that if Capriles had won the election, then the dialogues between the Colombian government and the FARC would have been in serious trouble.
Chavez has previously been accused of aiding the rebel group FARC by the United States and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and has also been facing increasing crime rates in the border region, partly due to the presence of Colombian armed groups.
The Venezuelan president has vehemently denied supporting Colombian rebels and has improved ties with sitting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, although FARC and ELN guerrillas continue to use Venezuelan territory as refuge.
These are the first major peace talks between the government and FARC since negotiations ended in disaster in 2002. The failed peace process tarnished the legacy of then-president Andres Pastrana and paved the way for the hard-line policies of Alvaro Uribe.