The U.S. Ambassador to Colombia has backed President Juan Manuel Santos‘ statement that the country faces an armed conflict, rather than a terrorist threat, but asserted that this should not change guerrilla groups’ political status, newspaper El Espectador reported Friday.
Ambassador Michael McKinley stated that “We don’t see that this designation should change the status of members of guerrilla organizations.”
The ambassador’s statement was made in respect to Santos’ Wednesday pronouncement that Colombia is involved in an “internal armed conflict,” contradicting the rhetoric of former President Alvaro Uribe, who continues to maintain that the country faces a “terrorist threat.”
McKinley went on to say that the Colombian head of state’s redefinition of the conflict will have no bearing on the U.S. commitment to help Colombia defeat groups that use terror as a tool in the struggle for political gain.
Former President Alvaro Uribe criticized the current president on Thursday for changing the official rhetoric regarding the armed struggle, which will have a bearing on the proposed Victims Law currently being debated in the Senate.
According to Santos, the terminological change aims to exclude victims of common crime from the benefits intended specifically for victims of violence perpetrated by armed groups involved in the conflict.
Uribe, meanwhile, expressed concern that the rhetorical shift will give legitimacy to guerrilla groups fighting the Colombian state, despite the fact that Victim’s Law committee members indicated Thursday that the political status of these groups will not change.