Juan Manuel Santos announced he will run for re-election
Santos has put his efforts into a peace process with the FARC
The peace process could hinge on the electoral outcome
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos officially announced he will seek re-election, a decision that could affect the ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC.
“You elected me to strengthen the results that we had achieved in security, and we have delivered,” Santos said in a televised speech Wednesday night.
Santos, who was first elected in 2010 on a platform of continuing an offensive against the leftist guerrillas that have been at war with the government for decades, instead followed a different path.
The hallmark of his presidency now is the peace process between the government and the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
The peace process has been ongoing for one year, with progress coming slowly. This approach is controversial in Colombia, which in the past has been burned by failed negotiation attempts.
With a peace agreement unlikely to be in place before next year’s presidential election, its chances of success could be foreshadowed by the vote.
One of Santos’ rivals for the presidency is Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who has called for an end to the peace talks and is against giving a political space to the rebels.
Zuluaga’s proposal is backed by former President Alvaro Uribe, a former ally of Santos who now favors someone with a hardline stance against the guerrillas.
Santos says he wants to be re-elected to finish the peace process he started.
“We still have big challenges, but I’m convinced that the way to confront them is not only through blood and fire,” he said.
Santos’ current approval rating of about 30% means his incumbency will not guarantee him a second four-year term.
“He thinks that because of fragmentation among the political parties and that other political leaders also haven’t consolidated supporters, he can be re-elected,” political analyst Jaime Arango said.
Santos placed all his political capital on the negotiations with the FARC, so it’s natural that he is seeking re-election, another analyst, Vicente Torrijos, said.
Seeking a second term was his only option given that the peace process is still underway, he said.
“So he is going to present himself to Colombians and the world as the peacemaker and of course this is his best calling card to aspire to this re-election,” he said.
Journalist Fernando Ramos reported from Bogota. CNN’s Mariano Castillo reported and wrote the story in Atlanta.