The meeting followed an unexpected press conference by Santos’ former peace negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, who warned the country was heading “towards the abyss of war.”
The president is under unprecedented pressure after his administration failed to implement key elements of the peace deal.
Violence has broken out in some of the areas abandoned by the FARC, the group that demobilized 14,000 people last year. Many dozens of social leaders have been murdered since peace was signed in November 2016.
“We will not be told … that the implementation is failing,” said Santos.
“Of course we have had problems, difficulties and delays, but the results are very positive,” according to the president, who contradicted international organizations that have blasted the government’s failures.
We have made more progress than any other process in the history of armed conflict resolution in the world.
President Juan Manuel Santos
The implementation of the Peace Agreement has not progressed as quickly and ambitiously as expected. We need a greater level of commitment and political will to ensure that what has been agreed is implemented. After more than 50 years of conflict, the victims deserve much more than we have seen so far. Furthermore, we are particularly concerned about the situation of the most remote populations living in a power vacuum that, until now, the Colombian State has not been able to address with a territorial presence that includes development opportunities and basic services.
Red Cross chief Christoph Harnisch
Santos contradicted the commander of the security forces, General Alberto Jose Meija, who said in March that 1,200 FARC members have joined dissident factions. According to Santos, no more than 750 men and women have deserted.
Santos stressed successes in the disarmament of the FARC, progress made in the removal of landmines and ongoing efforts to reduce the cultivation of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine.
According to the president, “at the end of this month we will have removed 30,000 hectares through the crop substitution program.” This is 40% less than Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas promised to have eradicated by the end of 2017.
Santos also stressed that “1.8 million victims benefit from a program for income generation” a week after the Comptroller General’s Office released a blistering report in which it said that 93% of Colombia’s 8.6 million victims have been left unattended by the state.
The president said that 91% of the legislation related to the peace deal has been approved by the Constitutional Court, but ignored the fact that more than half of the bills to support the peace process are stuck in Congress.
Santos neither addressed United Nations’ concerns over a registered deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Colombia nor a 9% increase in homicides reported by the defense ministry.
Colombia’s peace process is expected to last for more than a decade as the country is trying to overcome more than half a century of armed conflict that has left more than 8.5 million victims.