Criticisms made by Vice President Francisco Santos regarding the possible appointment of Cambio Radical’s German Vargas Lleras as new defense minister in the incoming administration of his cousin Juan Manuel Santos have attracted widespread condemnation from the president-elect’s camp.
In an interview with Radio Santa Fe in Bogota on Wednesday, Vice President Santos said that offering Vargas Lleras the position would be “like letting the mouse look after the cheese.” He branded the Cambio Radical leader a “traitor” with “no loyalties except to himself,” referring to a time when the former Uribe supporter opposed a referendum seeking the president’s re-election.
Although there has been no official word of about the choice for next defense minister, it is rumored that Vargas Lleras has been singled out as favorite for the position.
In the interview, Vice President Santos blasted the idea and went on to say that Vargas Lleras’ appointment would send a clear message to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to “go to hell.”
“A nomination like this tells the Uribe coalition ‘I don’t care if this person has betrayed President Uribe and the coalition twice, I do not care and I will appoint him minister of defense.” the senior official said.
Vice President Santos’ comments have been received badly by Santos’ supporters.
President of Colombian Congress Armando Benedetti said, “I know he is an intelligent man in a high-powered position, but he should watch his words because the privilege of choosing who to appoint or who not appoint as defense minister is a privilege none of us have.”
The Conservative Party Senator Jorge Pedraza emphasized that the president’s privilege to appoint ministers is autonomous and that it was not good for the country for Vice President Santos to speak about Lleras Vargas in those terms.
“I think it is both harmful and unwise to talk in those terms. That’s why it is worth questioning the sanity of the Vice President because these are not terms to use at a time when the country in on the path to national unity,” Pedraza said.
Partido de La U Senator Effrain Torres also branded the senior official’s comments “inappropriate and lacking in self control.”
When asked to comment, President-elect Santos simply called his cousin “irresponsible, as he usually is.”