Juan Manuel Santos, front-runner presidential candidate and Partido de la U leader, admits having in the past met personally with “Raul Reyes,” the assassinated spokesman for guerrilla group the FARC, reported Colombian media.
The politician, speaking in front of 50 party members, explained that he met with the prominent FARC leader in Costa Rica in 1997.
He also said that he later met Reyes in El Caguan, the demilitarized zone ceded to the FARC under President Pastrana, as part a Verification Commission, to confirm plans to demilitarize the region.
The candidate called on his fellow party members to learn from his experiences not to make any further attempts at negotiation with the guerrilla group, but to maintain a firm stance against it.
“I met with Raul Reyes, but after seeing how they [the FARC] betrayed the Colombian people, how they betrayed the generous hand that the Colombian state handed him, and they responded with kidnapping and terrorism, let us not hesitate in shooting them down,” said Santos.
Santos said that the meetings took place with full authorization from the then-Colombian governments, that of President Ernesto Samper in 1997, and that of President Andres Pastrana at the later meeting in El Caguan.