Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the Uribista presidential frontrunner in Colombia's first round vote, has altered his stance on negotiating with FARC guerrillas, dealing a blow to President Juan Manuel Santos’ attempts to frame their contest as a choice between “war vs. peace.”
The reversal was part of a pact with Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez, who came in third place in Sunday’s election, obtaining 15.5 percent of the vote. Ramirez agreed to support Zuluaga’s bid in exchange for adopting some of her proposals, including softening his approach to peace talks. In a joint declaration released yesterday, the two agreed that negotiations with rebels should continue under a Zuluaga administration, albeit under some new conditions. These include:
a. Immediately ending the recruitment of children.
b. Desisting from laying landmines and providing the government with maps of existing minefields for clearance to start immediately.
c. Stopping terrorist attacks against the population.
d. Ending war crimes.
e. Stopping attacks on infrastructure.
f. The government will reach an agreement on a time limit for negotiations with the FARC.
g. We will insist that the FARC comply with their commitment to end kidnapping and extortion and on the necessity of the group ceasing activities related to drug trafficking.
As Semana reports, this is a far cry from Zuluaga’s recent remarks on the peace talks. On Monday he said he would provisionally suspend the talks immediately upon taking office, and end them unless guerrillas adopted a permanent unilateral ceasefire, a condition the FARC have rejected in the past. In previous statements the Uribe-backed candidate also said he would not allow rebel leaders to participate in politics without serving jail time.
La Silla Vacia suggests that these new conditions are far more realistic. The FARC have already announced an end to kidnapping, and issues like drug trafficking, landmines and the recruitment of minors are currently being negotiated.
The news site also points out that the announcement puts President Juan Manuel Santos in a tight spot ahead of the June 15 runoff. Up to now, he has based much of his re-election campaign on his image as the “peace candidate,” and Zuluaga’s mano dura approach to FARC negotiations has played into this. But with his opponent embracing an updated, more nuanced position on peace talks, Santos may have a harder time convincing voters that a vote for him is a vote to end the country’s long-running armed conflict.
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