Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos reprimanded rural leaders on Monday for implying that his government has been negotiating the nation’s economic model with the peace delegation of the rebel group FARC as part of ongoing peace talks in Cuba.
During a tense meeting with the leaders of Colombian agricultural unions, President Santos scolded the head of the Colombian Society of Agricultural Workers (SAC), Rafael Mejia, for insinuations he made in a Friday interview with El Tiempo newspaper.
“Where the hell did they get the idea that we have been discussing the economic model or private property in Havana?” Santos asked.
The President then gave the floor to Mejia on the condition that he express his apologies, which the representative eventually did, El Tiempo reported.
Santos’ offense was caused by the accusatory words of Mejia during an interview last week, in which the SAC leader questioned whether or not the government was respecting Colombia’s economic model, its private property, and its free market during ongoing peace talks with the FARC in Havana.
“Who’s in charge here, the President or the island of Cuba?” was one of the comments made by Mejia.
“We support [Santos], but facts show that he has changed his position,” Mejia had said.
After what attendants at the Presidential palace described as an “uncomfortable but necessary moment,” the conference resumed.
One of the two already agreed-upon points out of a total of six agenda items to be discussed at the negotiating table between the guerrillas and the government, focused on agrarian reform. Though there is already an existing deal on this subject, the specifics of the agreement have not been made public. This agrarian reform accord will likely directly affect organizations such as the SAC, and could have a serious economic effect as well.
The agricultural union representatives and Santos’ government discussed peace and juridical security, the National Agricultural Pact, public assets for the agricultural sector and the Rural Mission — a group of public policies aiming to reform farming in Colombia over the next 20 years.