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Juan Manuel Santos’ finest hour

70 0 13

The Colombian leader is ending 2016 with impressive achievements, overcoming a shocking defeat in referendum on FARC peace deal

Colombian President Juan Ma-nuel Santos is enjoying a moment of glory. Having received the Nobel Peace Prize last week for his efforts to bring about peace to his native Colombia, Santos will end 2016 with impressive achievements on his record. After overcoming a defeat in the October plebiscite on the peace agreement he negotiated with the guerillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Santos did not surrender in his effort to end the armed conflict. He was able to modify the agreement, extracting additional concessions from the guerillas, and shepherd it through Congress. To top things off, the Constitutional Court has given a green light to fast-track the procedures needed to implement the accompanying laws for the peace agreement and Congress seems poised to pass a tax reform package that will provide much-needed resources in order to build lasting peace in Colombia. Without a doubt, he is the most successful Latin American president of 2016.

When he was elected in 2010, Juan Manuel Santos was still eclipsed by the shadow of Álvaro Uribe, the strong-willed president (2002-2010) who relied on US support to fight the FARC guerillas. Having amended the Constitution to allow for one re-election, Uribe drastically transformed Colombia, concentrating power in the hands of the president and deploying a heavy-handed strategy to fight the guerillas. Though he tried to amend the Constitution again to abolish term-limits, Uribe eventually had to relinquish his efforts and ended up supporting Santos in the 2010 presidential election.

A member of a traditionally powerful Colombian family, Santos developed an impressive career as an economist, journalist (his family owned the El Tiempo newspaper until 2007) and politician. With ties to the Liberal Party, Santos served in the government of César Gaviria (1990-1994) and the Conservative Party government of Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) before becoming a close associate of president Álvaro Uribe. After helping Uribe found the Party of National Unity in 2005 (Partido de la U), Santos was named minister of defence and led the war against the FARC guerillas.

Surprisingly, shortly after coming to power, Santos broke with Uribe and signalled that he would be his own man. His break with his former ally began a fierce political battle that continues until today, with Uribe being Santos’ most important political opponent. Rather than keeping with the roadmap to thrash the guerillas, Santos chose to convene a peace process to allow for the FARC a way out of the conflict and build a lasting peace. After a long period of negotiations, the FARC agreed to a peace plan........

© Buenos Aires Herald