In an interview with BBC Mundo, Santos, who was the former president’s defense minister, confessed that his daily mantra was now “Don’t fight with Uribe,” and said he had not spoken to his old boss for three months.
Santos said, “I called him to congratulate him on the free trade agreement, because that’s a project as much his as mine, he put a lot of work in, but he did not return the call.
“I called him to congratulate him and share the success of the hit we gave FARC with Alfonso Cano, but he did not return the call.”
Santos was previously Uribe’s defense minister and gained power with his former boss’s help. But now Uribe seems to have become his strongest opposition.
Uribe has described Santos’ government as one of “announcements,” calling it “inactive” and “distant.”
In an interview with local radio, he said, “The acts of the national government are hypocritical and populist; it’s an act of hostility to name Rafael Pardo as Defense Minister.”
On his Twitter feed in August, Uribe wrote, “As a voter for this administration, it offends me that anti-corruption in politics is a facade with our government.”
But Santos told BBC Mundo, “I don’t believe (that Uribe is my opposition). I don’t have anything but gratitude, respect and admiration for president Uribe. I am building on what he built, and he did a lot for this country.”
He said he and the former president had different views on Colombia’s long-running conflict. While Santos has been presented as continuing the legacy of Uribe, in practice some of his most defining policies – such as the Victim’s Law – have gone in an opposite direction.
The law allowed victims of “armed conflict” to access financial compensation from the government. Uribe was opposed to recognition of an “armed conflict” – saying instead that Colombia faced a “terrorist threat”. The law also recognises victims of the state, which Uribe opposed.
Santos said, “He thinks it’s inconvenient to officially declare that there is an internal conflict here. But we can’t deny something that is so evident. The entire world talks about the conflict – how can we say there is no conflict when we have lived and suffered it for almost 50 years?
“I believe, I have always believed, that we have to start to heal our wounds after 50 years of war. (…) The Victims’ Law does that.”
BBC Mundo describes Santos as reinserting the word “dialogue” into discussions about FARC – something unthinkable during the Uribe government. There are, however, strict conditions.
Santos said: “We have learnt our lesson. Each time FARC talks of dialogue it is to take oxygen, strengthen its military power and hit us even harder. We are not going to allow that anymore. We have said we are going to persevere with our military strategy and if there is any possibility of dialogue we will do it – provided they have a real determination to come to an agreement.
“(If the FARC Secretariat) has a desire to achieve peace, if that will exists, and they show us that, I believe we can achieve peace easily. The people have had enough of violence.”
According to BBC Mundo, this attitude forms the core of the major differences between Uribe and Santos. But for now the Colombian president seems unwilling to let these differences become another battleground, no matter what his predecessor does.
Santos said, “A fight with the former president Uribe is no good for anyone. Not for him, not for me, not for the government but most of all it does not help the country.
“I believe we have to be responsible. We agree on a lot of things, and when we have disagreements, just like I have with President Chavez, we have to respect our differences.”