Pope Francis met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his predecessor Alvaro Uribe, for a private meeting after Santos successfully closed peace with the country’s largest rebel group opposed by Uribe.
The minute meeting between the Catholic Church’ top official and Colombia’s two most important politicians of the moment was held in the pope’s private office in the Vatican and lasted for about 25 minutes.
The Pope hoped to mediate between the former allies and now bitter rivals in a bid to advance the implementation of the peace accord with the FARC rebels which Uribe continues to oppose.
“You can not impose everything, your Holiness,” Uribe told the Pope claiming that the government needs to “loosen up” the implementation of the deal.
Santos and hardliner Uribe were once allies – Santos served in his predecessor’s cabinet and Uribe backed Santos’ first presidential bid. But the two turned against each other over the peace deal, the centerpiece policy of the Santos administration.
Uribe led the opposition campaign that saw the Colombian public reject the first peace deal in an October 2 plebiscite and continues to oppose the implementation of the the revised deal a convictions that he maintained during the meeting with the Holy See.
“In the democratic battle there can be no hatred … but there must be some convictions,” said the Democratic Center Senator speaking to the media in the aftermath of the historic meeting.
The former president said he was grateful for meeting but continued to defend his colleagues who oppose the implementation of the deal clarifying that he himself was just one of millions that voted “no.”
The senator said that they have always sought to reach a dialogue and that “they have never been against peace,” but that there are issues that remain “very delicate” in the agreements that President Santos has not changed.
“In all those people who disagree with the document with the FARC, there are Colombians who have very deep convictions of what is right for the country.” Pastrana, Ordoñez, Martha Lucia Ramirez, thousands of victims, senators, religious sectors and up to my colleagues in the Democratic Center, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, Carlos Holmes and Ivan Duque.”
Senator Alvaro Uribe
In particular Senator Uribe, who is currently under investigation for war crimes slated the transitional justice system which will see former FARC rebels receive reduced sentences for compliance with justice.
“It is total impunity that those of crimes against humanity will not have a proper sanction. At this moment there are Colombians who are in jail who have committed lesser crimes than those in the FARC,” said Uribe.
Despite the papal intervention, Uribe took the opportunity to criticize the Santos administration for fast-tracking the implementation of the deal whereby it was hastened through Congress to allow the demobilization of the FARC to take place.
He said that the fast-track was an “error” because it would not allow the “reaching of consensus because they would be imposing issues that would hurt the whole country.”
Pope Francis repeatedly expressed his support for the process over the four years of negotiations.
The leader of the Catholic Church has previously intervened to help in dialogue between the US and Cuba.