Colombia’s hard-line former President Alvaro Uribe publicly asked the United States on Sunday to reconsider its support for a pending peace deal with the FARC, and continue prosecuting and imprisoning guerrilla drug traffickers.
Uribe told local press he hoped that US President Barack Obama will use an increase in aid to put pressure on the government of Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos.
Obama last week announced he will ask US Congress to increase funding for Colombia from $300 million a year to 450 million a year to financially support the costly process of demobilizing, disarming and reintegrating thousands of FARC members.
Uribe could’ve told Obama personally after being invited to the White House himself, but refused. The former President no longer fits in the same room as his former defense minister and successor.
The former president did express his concerns in meetings with the US Special Envoy to the talks, Bernie Aronson, in meetings held in the US Ambassador’s residence in Bogota.
The staunchly conservative Uribe said he appreciated the US aid package, but rejected judicial leniency granted to guerrillas who have long used drug trafficking and kidnapping as major sources of revenue.
Santos, with the support of the US, has promised amnesty for all guerrillas not accused of war crimes and to shield FARC members from extradition to the US on drug charges.
“If the United Sates wants to help Colombia it’s very important they revise these aspects and hopefully help introduce changes in the deals with the FARC that has done so much damage and will continue to do so,” Uribe said.
“One thing is peace and another is agreements to surrender before terrorism,” the former president and current senator said.
Ironically, while the FARC will be protected from extradition, two of Uribe’s former personal security chiefs are serving prison sentences in the US for drug trafficking.
Uribe has long criticized his successor, saying that compromises made to end the half-a-century war constitute “surrendering the country to terrorists.”
Rather than peace, the former president fears that an agreement to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate the FARC will lead to more violence.
Uribe and his supporters, a more than substantial minority, have opposed peace talks with Colombia’s former public enemy #1 since they began in 2012.
While popular skepticism about the talks is widespread, the peace talks are hardly controversial in Congress where Santos’ centrist coalition has received the support of the leftist opposition to end violence between the state and the FARC.
Obama’s proposal to increase aid will have to pass US Congress where Uribe has been lobbying for stricter conditions imposed on the talks and more severe punishment for FARC members.
The FARC — like the Colombian state — is accused of thousands of war crimes committed during the longest-running armed conflict in the hemisphere.
The conflict killed more than 260,000 Colombians and displaced millions.