Colombian Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, an ally of the former head of state, sent a letter to now-Senator Uribe requesting his participation within the Advisory Commission for Peace that is being formed by the President.
This commission is supposed to advise the president in the “final stage” of the peace talks with the FARC, a rebel group at war with the state since 1964.
Santos emphasized on Tuesday that the committee is “of an inclusive character” and contains a wide variety of political colors.
The CD has categorically denied the legitimacy of the talks and Zuluaga implicitly denied the invitation, explaining “the Santos government has deceived us.”
Santos vs Uribe
Santos was elected president for the first time in 2010 with the promise to continue the then-popular policies of Uribe.
Instead, the president broke away from his predecessor’s hard-line approach to the FARC and began negotiations with the same guerrillas he had been combating as defense minister under his predecessor.
Zuluaga’s response reflected feelings of betrayal that has grown among Uribe-loyalists.
In spite of significant popular support and a strong minority on the right in Congress, the CD has been marginalized, partly due to their consistently staunch opposition.
Prominent Conservative Party critics of the peace talks, former President Andres Pastrana and former defense minister Marta Lucia Ramirez, did accept Santos to join the multi-faceted commission, leaving Uribe more isolated in his opposition to the talks.
The inspector general, one of the last remaining critics of the talks, called on Uribe to secure the representation of his party in the commission that will be consulted for the final stage of the talks.
According to Ordoñez, Santos’ approach to include critics hopes to enhance the quality of discussion through what is a sensitive process of negotiation with the FARC guerrillas.
Agreements about rural reform, political participation and the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking have already been agreed upon.
A final peace deal now depends on whether the warring parties can agree on victim reparation, transitional justice and a indefinite bilateral truce.
“The presence of the Central Democratic Party in the commission via Senator Uribe would allow a fundamental advance in the task of reaching a peace agreement,” said Ordoñez in his open letter.
The invitation provides “an opportunity to build, disagree, agree, exercise purposeful criticism and oversee control of the talks between the government and the FARC,” Ordoñez added.
The government official even directly referred to the existing tension between Santos and Uribe who haven’t talked in years.
He defined the commission as “a space where directly with the President of the Republic, face to face, he can examine and debate their existent differences.”
Uribe-loyals hold off
Uribe said on Twitter that he will respond to Ordoñez letter on Sunday.
Zuluaga said he would not act on his own behalf. “I represent the institution of the opposition party,” wrote the conservative, adding that “we will continue working for our party to submit proposals to achieve peace with justice.”
According to the Democratic Center, the current peace process is granting too much recognition and concessions to what Uribe and Santos have called “narcoterrorists.”
Uribe has said that the government “is negotiating with terrorism” and is demoralizing the military for implying the two warring parties are equal forces.
Additionally, Uribe loyalists have accused Santos of allowing “Castro-Chavism in the country, while granting impunity to war criminals.
Uribe also opposed a recent suspension of air strikes on FARC targets, claiming it was rewarding criminal behavior of the FARC.
The ex-president claimed that the FARC can now more easily continue committing crimes. According to a former army commander, this could constitute treason as it puts the lives of the soldiers at risk.
The armed conflict
Colombians generally optimistic
Despite Uribe’s objections, there has been growing optimism both inside and outside Colombia over the possible outcome of the talks that have been ongoing since November 2012.
So far, agreement has been found on a drastic rural reform, political participation for the FARC, and the guerrillas’ coordinated abandoning of drug trafficking.
The warring parties still have to find agreement on the final end of the conflict, which has spanned over half a century and killed more than 7,000 civilians, according to government statistics.