Colombian president to meet rival over failed peace deal


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will meet his predecessor and top rival Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday to discuss salvaging the peace process with the FARC rebels, officials said.

The high-stakes meeting comes after voters rejected a peace deal Uribe had condemned as too lenient on the leftist guerrillas — throwing the peace process into disarray and giving the former president a major victory.

The political enemies will meet at 11:30 am (1630 GMT) at the presidential palace, Santos’s office said.

The two men have a complicated history.

Santos served as Uribe’s defense minister from 2006 to 2009, leading a major army offensive against the FARC — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

But he shifted gears after succeeding Uribe in 2010, opening peace talks with the weakened rebels and provoking a major falling-out with his former boss, who branded him a traitor.

Santos will also meet with former president Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), another major opponent of the peace deal, an hour before Uribe, his office said.

Both meetings will be held behind closed doors.

Santos said on Twitter that he had invited the two former presidents “to dialogue… in a constructive spirit.”

His last known meeting with Uribe was in January 2011, after his government began secret talks with the FARC.

Santos repeatedly offered to meet his right-wing predecessor after formal talks with the rebels opened in Cuba in November 2012, but no sit-down materialized.

Santos, who has staked his legacy on the peace process, has been left scrambling by the shock referendum result, which flew in the face of opinion polls.

He named his foreign minister, defense minister and chief peace negotiator Monday to hold emergency talks with the opposition and seek a compromise.

Uribe and his hardline allies argue the peace deal is too soft on the FARC because it would have granted the rebels lenient sentences with no jail time for crimes committed during the conflict and allowed them to relaunch as a political party.

The Colombia conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and left 45,000 missing over half a century, drawing in several leftist guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.

© 2016 AFP

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