Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos talks about his strained relationship with predecessor Alvaro Uribe and other controversial policy issues in a written monologue published by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Sunday.
“[Uribe] has yet to assimilate to the fact that he is out of power, so for the good of himself, myself and the entire country, I hope he gets used to it quickly,” said Santos of the very public ongoing rift between himself and Uribe.
The head of state, who was Uribe’s Defense Minister, said he had no explanation for the continual harsh criticisms from his predecessor as he has “been loyal to his plans of democratic security, investor confidence, and social cohesion — the three eggs that he told me I had to look after.”
“At first everything affected me, but after thirty tweets a day I’ve become immune, I pay him little attention — I have more important things to attend to,” he added.
Commentators argue that Santos’ drive to prosecute corrupt politicians, and his acknowledgment of Colombia’s armed conflict and victims of state violence, in complete contradiction to Uribe’s policies, are the cause of the ever-growing divide.
The Colombian leader also spoke about drug legalization, a central topic at the Summit of the Americas where “we got what we wanted, which was to start a debate.”
He has championed the idea of investigating new alternatives in the war on drugs suggesting “decriminalizing consumption, treating it as a public health problem,” and noting that some think legalization would be the best way to control the illicit drug trade.
“But until there is a global consensus between different countries, we will not have an alternative to our current policy, which is to fight against drug trafficking and all of its links,” he said.
Santos also expressed concern for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s diminishing health, noting that “if something happens to Chavez this stability could topple and spiral into a situation of anarchy which would be disastrous for the whole region.”
Santos stressed that it was necessary to establish “adequate levels of relations with a country with whom we share 2200 km of border and hardly any diplomatic or commercial agreements until we were talking about war, when Latin American countries should be coordinating.”
The interview comes after the Colombian President was heralded as one Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” despite his recently-slipping public poll numbers.