Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos joined political adversaries of his predecessor, Senator Alvaro Uribe, in exposing the apparent hypocrisy of the former head of state in criticizing ongoing peace talks with leftist rebels.
Uribe, one of the most vociferous critics of the ongoing talks with the FARC, came under fire on Sunday when a prominent columnist published evidence of Uribe’s own intents to do exactly what he is now so fiercely opposed to; negotiate with the guerrillas.
“What the journalist Daniel Coronell published is absolutely true,” said Santos, who was Uribe’s defense minister between 2006 and 2009.
Uribe, who has accused Santos of “handing over the country” to extreme leftist ideologies like those of the FARC, and the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, himself tried to establish peace talks with the FARC in Brazil and the ELN in Cuba, said the president.
“There was not one, but many attempts to realize a peace process like we are realizing now,” according to Santos.
“Frank Pearl, the [current] peace commissioner who replaced Luis Carlos Restrepo himself, as instructed by president Uribe, tried to initiate a peace process with the FARC. They even established that Brazil would be the location of these talks as Brazil had given approval,” the president said.
According to Santos, Uribe is applying “double standards” by “accusing this government of handing over the country to ‘Castrochavismo’ o criticizing this government for seeking peace.
Pearl, who kept his position in 2010 when Santos took over the presidency from Uribe, confirmed late Monday that Uribe had authorized him to organize a secret and personal meeting with the FARC in Brazil.
The FARC also confirmed this.
Uribe responded on Twitter calling Santos a liar and implying Coronell had been bribed by the president to release the documents that demonstrated Uribe was doing exactly what Santos is doing.
However, according to Uribe there is one big difference: “The FARC did not accept our condition, an end to criminal activity of the FARC,” which according to the former head of state has been delegitimizing the ongoing peace talks.
“Pearl always knew that the dialogue would be under the condition of an end to criminal activity. This was public,” Uribe said, confirming 2010 statements in which he said his administration was “ready for dialogue once criminal activities ceased.”
The Uribe administration negotiated peace with the ELN between 2002 and 2005 while the rebel group continued to wage war against the state.
Uribe’s attempts to seek peace talks with the FARC and ELN had already been established by cables released by whistleblower website Wikileaks and were later confirmed by a Swiss diplomat who was mediating between the Uribe administration and the rebels.
The hard-line former president ruled Colombia from 2002 and 2010, and has been widely praised for pushing rebel groups away from the cities and into the periphery of Colombia’s national territory. However, Uribe was also politically responsible for the extrajudicial execution of more than 4,000 civilians who were registered as guerrillas killed in combat in an apparent attempt to inflate the military’s success.
Additionally, the former president is at odds with justice over scores of political allies and family members who were sentenced to prison over ties to the AUC that is held responsible for tens of thousands of human rights violations.