Colombia: president-elect Santos pledges to escalate war

Colombia’s president-elect Juan Manuel Santos announced after his victory in the second-round vote June 20 that outgoing President Alvaro Uribe is to thank for his victory, and pledged to hit the FARC guerillas even harder than his predecessor. “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Santos said, quoting Isaac Newton while addressing thousands of supporters who gathered in Bogotá to celebrate his victory. “While [the FARC] insist on terrorist methods, while they insist on attacking the people there will be no dialogue, and we will continue to confront them with total toughness, with total firmness,” Santos said.

“Colombia is leaving its nightmare… [T]he FARC’s time has run out,” he continued, while adding that the doors would remain open to guerrillas who wanted to demobilize and re-join society. “The time has come for national unity,” Santos said, calling for political factions, including that of his opponent Antanas Mockus, to join his “government of national unity.”

“No more useless confrontations, no more divisions, the time has arrived for union, the time has arrived for work, employment and entrpreneurialism,” the president-elect said, adding that “work, work and more work” will be the foundations of his government.

In an evident reference to the recent conviction of Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega for extrajudicial killings in the 1985 Palace of Justice hostage crisis, Santos also said that the current “train crash” between the executive and the judiciary is “unhealthy” and promised to meet with the courts to find a solution as to how they can work in harmony. Uribe’s clash with the judiciary was a point of contestation in the Santos-Mockus presidential debates.

In the second round vote, Santos won with with 69%, to Mockus’ 27%. Voter turnout was down 11% compared to the first round of the elections, with guerilla violence, poor weather, and World Cup fever taking their toll. (Colombia Reports, June 20)

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