Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos maintained that the country’s violent struggle should be classified as an internal “armed conflict,” rather than a “terrorist threat,” in a Tuesday meeting.
Santos stated that, “The armed forces are operating under the umbrella of International Humanitarian Law, which presumes the existence of an internal armed conflict,” in a meeting with Partido de la U members and commanders of the Armed Forces, according to a presidential communique.
The head of state said that his perspective was shared by the others present at the meeting.“They all coincided in saying that it is fundamental to recognize that this is an internal armed conflict, because otherwise operations that are taking place could not take place.”
According to Santos, the use of the phrase is intended to prevent victims of common crime from claiming benefits designated for victims of violence perpetrated by armed groups under the Victims Law, which will pass through the final round of debates in the Senate on Thursday.
The president finished by saying that his administration and the armed forces have a “firm, clear and forceful attitude against narco-terrorism, against armed illegal groups, against everything that generates violence and goes against the state of law and the safety and security of Colombians.”
After the initial definitional change, Santos faced severe criticism from his predecessor Alvaro Uribe, who argued that Santos is giving illegal armed groups legitimacy by calling them “belligerents” instead “terrorists.”
Santos rejected the former president’s criticism, saying that, “In no way does it mean that we are giving them special recognition, much less paving the way to belligerence because they do not meet any of those requirements.”