The former president has opposed the peace talks since they were announced in 2012 and has fiercely criticized the deal because of widely rejected elements in terms of justice and the FARC’s future political participation.
Santos, who’s been responsible for the negotiations and has been promoting the deal ahead of an October 2 referendum on the deal with will be signed September 26.
According to almost all pollsters, Santos’ public “education” on the war and the peace deal and the “Yes” campaign he supports are making it increasingly likely the country will ratify the deal.
Additionally, while Santos’ calls for a “Yes” vote is supported by a myriad of social and victim organizations.
Colombia’s peace deals in depth
Uribe, in the meantime, has been opposing the deal from the opposition benches with a limited budget and only with the support of fringe elements within Colombia’s political system. This has created unfair conditions for the to be fair, the former president and his supporters claim.
Moreover, Uribe’s own human rights record has been haunting him for years and has isolated him politically both nationally as internationally, and even puts him at risk of having to appear before the transitional justice system he opposes.
A televised referendum would allow Uribe to expose his objections on this justice system in which war criminals are able to evade prison if they fully and without hesitation collaborate with the court.
Those who hesitate in clarifying the truth or refuse will go to prison for up to 20 years.
Uribe’s objections are broadly echoed in Colombian society, also because the deal will allow FARC commanders, some of whom are suspected of hundreds of war crimes, will be able to take part in politics once having paid for their crimes.
A televised debate between the two would be a major gain for the “No” campaign, but a major threat for Santos’ “Yes” campaign.
Uribe is an experienced debater with popularly shared objections while Santos is one of Latin America’s least popular presidents who would have to defend elements of the deal he is least proud of.
This is why Uribe’s proposal for a debate is not likely to be adhered by the president, who has no electoral obligation to hold debates, and has more to lose than to win from one.