Juan Camilo Restrepo

Juan Camilo Restrepo (Image credit: President's Office)

Juan Camilo Restrepo is a Colombian politician and the government’s chief negotiator in peace talk with the ELN, the country’s oldest active rebel group.

The Medellin-born Restrepo has been involved in national government since the late 1970s when he became Superintendent of Banks during the presidency of Alfonso Lopez (1974-1978).

He resigned his last post in government as Minister of Agriculture in May 2013 over his department’s inability to return hardly any of the 8 million hectares of land that was stolen during the country’s armed conflict.

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Restrepo, a lawyer by trade, has been a life-long member of Colombia’s Conservative Party and is married to journalist Maria Teresa Herran.

During his almost 40-year-long political career, the 1946-born Restrepo was senator, mining minister, finance minister and Colombia’s ambassador to France.

While being elected best senator by his colleagues in 1995, Restrepo became one of Colombia’s most unpopular figures in politics at the end of the 1990s when the country was nearly declared a failed state and he was finance minister.

In 2002, Restrepo was his party’s candidate in the presidential elections, but received approximately 1% of the vote in the elections that were won by Alvaro Uribe.

After losing those elections, Restrepo became one of the primary critics of Uribe during the latter’s two presidencies between 2002 and 2010.

His return to politics in 2010 was one of the first signs of a rift between the former president and his former defense minister, current President Juan Manuel Santos, as Uribe did not expect Santos, his former defense minister, to be appointing political adversaries.

Restrepo’s return to politics proved hardly successful as tensions in the countryside grew following a free trade agreement with the United States and his inability to effectively implement land restitution programs, a challenge none of his successors have successfully overcome.

On October 23, 2016, Santos announced Restrepo’s appointment as chief negotiator with the ELN, a guerrilla group formed in 1964.

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