Leaders of Colombia’s political parties and armed forces on Wednesday expressed their support for President Juan Manuel Santos if the head of state chooses to initiate peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
The broad political and military support followed statements by former President Alvaro Uribe who had said Santos had already begun negotiations with the rebels in Cuba.
Uribe and his supporters in Congress vociferously rejected possible peace talks with the FARC but found themselves politically isolated as all political party leaders and the commander of the armed forces in response expressed their confidence in Santos and support for the possibility of opening negotiations with the rebels.
“The president isn’t alone in his quest for peace. Congress opens the doors to the house of democracy to debate roads to peace,” said Roy Barreras, Congress president and prominent U Party senator.
Individual Uribe-loyalists within the U Party and the Conservative Party supported the former president in rejecting peace talks and claimed Santos was responsible for demoralizing the troops fighting rebel groups, showing an initial division in the coalition.
However, while Conservative Party president Efrain Cepeda told newspaper El Tiempo that “at this moment there are no conditions for peace” and that “you must continue fighting,” the political leader added that he was confident in Santos’ ability to judge when conditions allowed successful peace talks and that the Conservative Party “will consider its support.”
Armed Forces commander General Alejandro Navaz denied Uribe’s assertions that the security forces were demoralized and assured that “the offensive [against the rebels] is intense as ever.”
“The president has the keys to peace carefully kept and he has said he will use them when the conditions are [right]. The expedited conditions are when the will to fight by this threat has been broken, when there is a turning point. Meanwhile operations continue with all offensive vigor,” Navaz told Congress.
The most explicit political support came from the centrist Liberal Party and the socialist opposition party Polo Democratico.
Liberal Party leader Simon Gaviria went as far as saying that “we insist there is a necessity to have a dialogue, that there is the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict.”
Polo leader Clara Lopez sent out a statement saying her party “supports steps the government of President Santos may take to reach a negotiated peace.”
Green Party president Luis Eduardo Garzon said that “we are fully convinced that President Santos … is committed to peace and we support him in this.”
According to Uribe, Santos’ brother Enrique and generals of Colombia’s armed forces are in Cuba to negotiate a possible peace agreement with the rebels who have been at war with the Colombian state since 1964.