Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday that the country’s conservative opposition has until Thursday to present proposals for amendments to an already signed peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group FARC.
Santos is in a race against the clock to revive the suspended peace process that formally began a few days before the deal was rejected in a referendum earlier this month.
The shock vote stopped the process in its tracks just when the FARC was about to demobilize, leaving the countryside vulnerable to violence as rival groups have been vying to assume guerrilla territory and criminal rackets.
Having already received the proposals of the main opponent of the deal, former President Alvaro Uribe, Santos gave other opponents until Thursday to deliver proposals that will then be sent to Havana, Cuba, where government and guerrilla negotiators are waiting.
Uribe, who has consistently rejected peace with the FARC since talks began in 2012, rejected Santos’ deadline immediately.
In a written response, Uribe’s Democratic Center party accused Santos of “blackmailing” mayors and governors who had failed to promote the peace deal that was rejected with a razor-sharp margin.
Both the government and the FARC said to be open to “analyzing” a renegotiation of the deal, but warned that after more than five years of talks profound changes to the deal were unlikely to happen.
Uribe on the other hand is seeking major changes after years of refusal to cooperate in the construction of the initial deal.
But amid grassroots protests in favor of “peace NOW,” a Nobel Peace prize for Santos and increased criticism of victim organizations that accuse the former president of war crimes, Uribe’s pride could be his downfall.
Santos has already successfully divided the opposition and on Monday received support from the Catholic Church, making it easier to marginalize Uribe, who already is politically isolated in Congress, which ultimately decides which peace deal with the FARC to revive.