The Bogota native served as vice-president under president Alvaro Uribe from 2002-2010. After which he continued as the managing director of one of Colombia’s biggest radio stations, RCN.
Following a failed attempt to become the candidate of Uribe’s Democratic Center party in the 2014 elections, Santos decided to run for mayor of Bogota as a candidate of the conservative party, however his campaign proved to be unsuccessful.
Although he did not win the mayoral elections, he managed to consolidate his party’s power in the city of Bogota by securing a bench of 6 elected councilors for the period 2016-2019, turning the Democratic Center into the second strongest political force in Bogota, thus strengthening their influence on the politics of the capital.
Born to one of Colombia’s most influential political dynasties, Santos descends from a family of famous politicians and journalists. Colombia’s ex-president Eduardo Santos Montejo was his great uncle while two of his cousins are the president Juan Manuel Santos and his nephews are editors-in-chief of the country’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, and weekly Semana.
Santos, like the president and his nephew, was El Tiempo’s editor-in-chief in the 1990s.
In the 1980s and 1990s, during the reign of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar, kidnappings were common in Colombia and both Escobar’s Medellin Cartel as leftist rebel groups were using the practice to terrorize the population and, in the case of Escobar, prevent the approval of an extradition treaty with the US that sought him for drug trafficking crimes.
Francisco Santos was among those kidnapped in 1990, and was not released until May 1991. In his book “News of a Kidnapping” Gabriel Garcia Marquez, examined Santos’ kidnapping.
After his kidnapping, Santos moved to the United States where he worked as a scholar at Harvard University. However, he soon returned to Colombia where he initiated various movements, such as “No more!” and “Pais Libre,” a non-governmental organization that has since campaigned against kidnapping.
From journalism to politics
Santos was a prominent supporter of peace talks between the FARC and the administration of Andres Pastrana that took place between 1999 and 2002. Upon his return to Colombia he advocated for a dialogue with the guerrillas as a way and the war and eradicate kidnappings in the country.
However, his activism led to threats from the insurgency groups and in 2000 he was forced to leave the country once again.
He worked in Spain until in 2002 he became the running mate and subsequently vice-President of the newly President Alvaro Uribe. Santos served as vice-president for the full eight years Uribe was in office.
From politics to journalism and back
After his terms as vice-president, Santos returned to journalism as the news director of one of Colombia’s most popular radio stations, RCN. Aligning with the former president Uribe’s rather conservative political views, Santos developed into one of the most vociferous critics against his cousin and former colleague, President Juan Manuel Santos.
When in 2012 Uribe had lost influence over the new government due to political and judicial frictions, Santos was fired at RCN, Uribe founded the political movement which would later become the Democratic Center with Santos, senior Conservative Party politician Marta Lucia Ramirez, and controversial former Interior Minister Fabio Valencia. The party was officially born on January 20th, 2013.
Santos was hoping to run against his cousin in the 2014 elections. However, in a closed vote he was beaten by Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Santos challenged the outcome claiming Zuluaga had been fraudulently elected. The losing candidate then distanced himself from Uribe until the National and Bogota elections came closer.
Santos supported Zuluaga’s candidacy in the last weeks of the presidential election race and, following Zuluaga’s loss in the vote, was picked by Uribe to become the candidate for Bogota mayor, widely considered the second most important post in the country.
This is not the only scandal that Santos has been embroiled in. The senior politician is also investigated over his alleged attempt to form a paramilitary group in Bogota, called the “Bloque Capital,” in conjunction with with leaders of paramilitary umbrella organization AUC between 1996 and 1996.
He was under investigation for a series of meeting that allegedly took place between himself, paramilitary commanders Salvatore Mancuso and “Jorge 40″ about the alleged creation of this death squad.
Santos’ has denied these accusations. The Prosecutor General closed the case in 2008 declaring that there was no evidence. However, the case was reopened in October 2009, but the investigation has not led to any criminal charges.
Land theft allegations
During his term as vice-president, Santos was implicated in a land theft scandal. He was accused of being connected to illegal land grabbing in the eastern Vichada department.
Santos’ name was listed as the owner of uncultivated farm and waste land in reports concerning Riopaila, a firm under criminal investigation for their alleged illegal appropriation of lands, opposition House Representative Wilson Arias told press.
Santos however replied that all land was acquired legally.
Francisco Santos Calderón (Verdadabierta)