Uribe, despite being a mentor and strong political ally, would not form a part of any eventual Democratic Center (Centro Democratico – CD) government said Zuluaga in an interview with AP, re-published in Colombian weekly newsmagazine Semana.
|“The country already knows me, I spent 26 years in public life and the country knows my spirit, my character, my strength, my independence and responsibility.”|
Zuluaga, the candidate of the party, and handpicked presidential candidate of Alavaro Uribe, stressed his independence in politics and claimed that he would have no trouble dealing with Uribe.
“Firstly, [Uribe] will not do it [Put himself within the eventual government] because that is not his temperament. And secondly [because] it is teamwork where everyone fulfills there role, and achieves their ideas,” said Zuluaga.
A “puppet” of Uribe
Critics of Zuluaga, Santos among them, have in the past called the Democratic Center candidate a, “puppet” of Uribe, a claim Zuluaga strongly denies.
Zuluaga, an economist and former Minister of Finance, emphasized that “the country already knows me, I spent 26 years in public life and the country knows my spirit, my character, my strength, my independence and responsibility.”
When Santos, in a televised debate on 22 May, suggested as much, Zuluaga angrily demanded, “respect,” from his rival.
Due to Zuluaga’s relatively low profile at the start of the presidential elections, Uribe accompanied him to many major public events to boost his profile, and the two men stand side by side on the countless campaign billboards throughout the country.
The result was that in the first round of the presidential elections on 25 May, Zuluaga came out on top with 29% of the vote whilst Santos trailed him on 25%.
Zuluaga claims Uribe would form no part of his administration, in any official capacity. However, the influence on Uribe on Zuluaga’s campaign so far suggests that he would be nonetheless be an important player and adviser in any Zuluaga government.
With neither candidate securing above 50% of the vote, the two will contest the second round on 15 June.
A choice between war and peace
Since November 2013, the government of Santos has been negotiating peace talks with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, in Havana, Cuba, and since then three out of six points on the peace agenda have been agreed upon between the peace delegations.
Much of the 2014 presidential elections has been cast as a choice between war and peace, with Santos vying to continue the talks whilst Zuluaga, backed by the hard line Uribe, proposing a set of stringent conditions which would make the talks unlikely to continue. Just a week ago, Zuluaga back-flipped on his steadfast insistence that he would end the peace talks.
|“From the first day of my government I will maintain a generous policy for demobilization: those who are outside the law and want to return to civilian life are welcome … to be good citizens”|
In the interview, Zuluaga stated that he favored peace but with conditions: “It must be demanded of the terrorists of the FARC that there is no more recruitment of children, that there are no more antipersonnel mines, that they do not assassinate in cold blood soldiers and policemen, and that there are no more attacks against good Colombians.”
“These are the conditions which Colombians are waiting for…Last week a judge of the republic ordered a Colombian to five months in prison for robbing two chocolates. Meanwhile the FARC, and their leaders, who have committed atrocious crimes and crimes against humanity, hope not to spend one day in prison. This would not be just for the country.”
Intercepted conversations between the FARC peace delegation in Cuba and the organisation’s leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias “Timochenko,” revealed the chief negotiator saying that high members of the guerrilla organization would not spend “even one day in jail,” and that such an arrangement would be “unacceptable.”
Asked about the possibility of ending the talks in Havana if the guerrillas do not submit to his conditions, Zuluaga merely responded, “I have to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and the law. From the first day of my government I will maintain a generous policy for demobilization: those who are outside the law and want to return to civilian life are welcome … to be good citizens.”
The second round of the election between Juan Manuel Santos and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga will be decided on June 15.