The resignation of Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos
Monday leaves a lot of unanswered questions. It is unclear who will now
lead the State’s war against illegal armed groups and how it will
affect the 2010 presidential election.
Following his resignation, Santos himself did not make any official
recommendations over who should replace him. He said he agreed with
Uribe that it was important to maintain continuity in the defense
According to El Espectador, Santos is in favor of Vice Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, but several media name Luis Carlos Villegas, prominent industrial leader, Rodrigo Rivera, a former Liberal and rabid defender of Uribe’s Democratic Security policy and Freddy Padilla de León, current commander of the Armed Forces.
What is certain that the successor will continue the Uribe-Santos hardline against the FARC.
Santos’ announcement that he will only run for the 2010 Presidency if Uribe does not, led to speculation in the media about what he and his soon-to-be former boss are planning for the presidential election.
Conservative Party leader Efraín Cepeda Sarabia said that Santos’ resignation does not mean Uribe is taking a step back. The opposition also thinks Uribe is still aspiring to a third term and that Santos’ resignation, as well as that of Andres Felipe Arias only serve as a plan B if Uribe is not allowed to run for office again.
Partido de la U leader Luis Carlos Restrepo however said he would fully support Santos’ candidacy, claiming the former Ministercan unify the coalition and lead it to a victory in the election.
Now that Santos has resigned he is able to step in if at any point Uribe is not allowed to be re-elected or choses himself not to run for office again. This does seem to seriously endanger Uribe’s wish to continue his Democratic Security Policy though, because of the competition the Uribista candidates have from former Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo and Cambio Radical leader German Vargas Lleras.