Presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos denied on Friday that his campaign team had instructed government-run social program “Familias en Accion” to pressure citizens to vote for him in the Colombia’s first round presidential elections, and condemned those who were behind the manipulation, reported W Radio.
“No one from my campaign has given instructions to threaten the people who form part of Familias en Accion. What I had said is that if there is anyone who can say who it was, may they speak,” Santos said.
Santos went on to explain that it is logical that those that benefit from the Familias en Accion program would vote for him, because he is the candidate who represents continuity of the policies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe.
“It is most logical that these people who benefited from the program would vote for me, its totally logical, there is nothing unethical about this, but it is not true that those who do not vote for me will lose their Familias en Accion benefits.”
On Thursday, Santos’ opponent for the June 20 run-off election, the Green Party’s Antanas Mockus, complained to the Inspector General’s Office that during the May 30 first round election employees of government social program Familias en Accion were offering voters rewards in return for voting for Santos.
Santos also defended himself on Friday against allegations that he had overstepped his boundaries in his 1997 negotations with guerrilla and paramilitary groups, saying that he was only seeking peace.
“We had never spoken of doing anything outside of what the government had authorized us to do…There was never a plan to overthrow the government of [former president Ernesto] Samper,” Santos argued.
Santos’ comments follow criticism from Mockus in a recent debate regarding his meetings with former FARC leader “Raul Reyes” in Costa Rica, and a meeting with former head of paramilitary group the AUC, Carlos Castaño.
In April, former Colombian President Ernesto Samper said that he had been aware of plans by Santos to coordinate a coup during Samper’s time as head of state from 1994 to 1998.
Samper claimed that he had been alerted as to the existence of a “sinister” group wishing to overthrow his government.
“I am sure that yes there were plans to gather a sinister coalition including Juan Manuel Santos, drug-traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitaries. I was made aware by Gilberto Echeverry, who was my minister, of the contacts that they were making, even with the FARC,” said Samper.
In Colombia’s first round presidential election held on May 30, Santos came in first with 46.57% of the vote, followed by Mockus with 21.47%. Given that no one candidate won the majority vote required to win the election outright, Santos and Mockus will face-off in a second round election on June 20.
The latest voter poll indicates that Santos will win the second round run-off with with 65%, while Mockus will win 28% of the votes.