Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday called for an end to “ambiguities” over whether the country’s new political part, the National Patriotic Council, had links to illegal armed groups.
The head of state praised the “maturity” of the 20,000 or so participants who attended Monday’s peaceful “Patriotic March” in Bogota celebrating the birth of the party, but avowed his committment to weed out “violent influences on our democracy, wherever they come from.”
As soon as the NPC announced its existence, the commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces raised concerns that the party could be infiltrated by the FARC – allegations they firmly reject, claiming the authorities “want to corner the political development with unfounded accusations.”
Insinuating FARC links in Colombia can have deadly consequences, where people suspected of collaborating with guerrillas are frequently murdered. When the FARC attempted to enter the democratic process with the creation of a political party in 1985, its members were systematically assassinated, leading to its eventual disappearance.
In a government press release Thursday, Santos said, “What we cannot allow are ambiguities, you are either on the side of the law or you’re not — there is no middle ground.”
Santos went on to say, “We will give full protection to those who play by the rules of democracy but we will not be tolerant to those who look for support from the armed,” adding “yes to politics, no to arms.”
The president said he it was time Colombia saw an end to the overlap between politics and arms, while affirming his committment to the public’s right to protest.
“It’s time to turn the page and finally close this sad chapter of our history that has been the combination of politcs with guns. Let us enrich our democracy with more voices and more spaces for all expression,” he said.
The NPC, which plans to stand for election in 2014, is committed to a peaceful political solution to Colombia’s “social, economic and armed conflict,” according to Congressman Hernando Hernandez Tabasco.