BOGOTA – A new peace deal with the FARC guerrilla should be ready before the end of November, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told EFE in an exclusive interview on Friday.
“We have restarted a process that should end very soon, in a matter of weeks, not months, that will enable us to implement peace as soon as possible,” he said in reference to the support he has received from the international community, in particular from the leaders attending the 25th Ibero-American Summit that started Friday.
When asked if he would announce the new agreement on Dec. 10 when he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Santos refrained from giving a specific date but did advance that it may happen even earlier.
“I hope, at least by that date, it will be on the negotiating table if not already implemented, although I think its implementation will take a bit longer, but the text and a new agreement is the objective we aim for before the end of November.”
After the agreement signed with the FARC was rejected in a referendum on Oct. 2, the Colombian leader called for a meeting with the nation’s different social and political forces in order to listen to all objections to and proposals for the document, which was taken to Cuba last week to be discussed with the FARC to secure a new text.
“My intention and aim is to secure a new agreement before the end of the year and hopefully a lot earlier,” said Santos.
Within the context of this national dialogue there are two key voices: the ex-presidents Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), senator and leader of the Democratic Center Party (PCD) and Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) of the Conservative Party (PC).
They were two of the most outspoken voices backing the “No” campaign that won the Colombian referendum, and Santos met with them two days after their campaign won.
“If there is goodwill on their part, we could easily obtain a new text as many of the issues raised are matters that can be incorporated in a relatively easy manner without altering the document’s essence; it depends on their willingness to do so and their true intent, if it is true they desire an agreement and a prompt agreement, we are going to get a green light very soon,” the President assured.
Likewise, he mentioned the first contacts his negotiators had in Cuba with the FARC during this second stage found the guerrilla receptive to the nearly 500 proposals the Colombian society has requested be reviewed within this agreement.
“We have found a good disposition on the side of the FARC because they also understood that the referendum is an outcome that we must respect and the reason why we must endeavor to find a way to present a new agreement both to Colombia and the world,” he said.
Santos warned that “the passage of time conspires against the process,” which is why it is so important to diligently advance towards a new agreement, because, for example, in the case of the “very fragile” bilateral ceasefire with the FARC, regardless of the protocols that have been implemented to guarantee its strict fulfillment, “anything can happen” so it is wiser to avoid taking any risks.
“I will do everything possible, whatever is in my hand, I am already doing so 24 hours a day, seven days a week to secure a new agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
“It would be a disaster for this nation if talks broke down and we returned back to war with the FARC, it would be a catastrophe, that is why I am confident we are going to succeed,” President Santos emphasized.