President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday admitted the security situation in Colombia has deteriorated since his election as president exactly a year ago.
The president made the statement in an early-morning interview on one of the country’s national television networks. The live broadcast was featured 365 days after the 2010 presidential elections, which he won in a landslide victory.
While admitting an increase in kidnappings and attacks by Marxist guerrilla group FARC, Santos stressed that there was a 10 percent drop in homicides in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period last year.
“The fight against drug trafficking has been very successful; the number of acres [used for the cultivation of illicit drugs] have gone down and the number of seizures are increasing,” said Santos.
According to the head of state, the increase in attacks by the FARC is due to the desperation of the guerrillas, who find themselves constantly under pressure by the security forces.
Santos added that the FARC is now only capable of carrying out hit-and-run attacks, saying, “They pass on a motorbike and throw a grenade or launch a mortar and go running. They do this, because for the first time the security forces have entered the lair of the FARC. They went in and stayed there.”
The administration’s security policy has been under heavy criticism by former President Alvaro Uribe and his political supporters as the FARC have been able to carry out more high-profile attacks especially in the south of the country. In addition, neo-paramilitary groups in the north are causing a spike in the murder rate because of fighting between factions.
The incumbent president nevertheless refused to be drawn into an antagonistic response when pressed upon his seemingly strained relations with Uribe, maintaining that he has only “admiration, respect and gratitude” for his predecessor. “I hope that Uribe is not disappointed with me,” he added.
Santos also drew a line under the recent public verbal clashes between Vice President Angelino Garzon and Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras, playing down its significance and defending Garzon from criticism over other similar clashes with government ministers.
Although stating that differences in opinion should not be aired in the public sphere, he noted that it was natural for the various ministries to come to alternative conclusions, given how they are affected differently by each decision.
With regards to Garzon himself, Santos said that “When Angelino has intervened it is because I have given him permission,” despite somewhat parodoxically admitting that he had to notify Garzon that he was incorrect after his latest outburst over supposed pardons for criminal gang members.
“I do not accept nor tolerate any kind of public confrontation between senior government officials,” he stated.