MEXICO CITY – Former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) no longer exists and the group of Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich that recently decided to again take up arms is just a criminal gang seeking to avoid justice.
“No matter how much political clothing they want to wear, no one will recognize them as political interlocutors because the FARC ceased to exist; the commanders representing 90 percent of the rebel group who stayed in the process are saying, they have nothing to do with us,” 68-year-old Santos told EFE.
In an interview with EFE, the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize winner said that Marquez and Santrich, two of the three leaders of the group that announced last week the return to arms, are traitors to the process and did so for personal reasons or for profit.
“For profit, for drug trafficking or to avoid justice in the cases of Marquez and Santrich because they knew that Marquez’s nephew, in the hands of the US authorities, was giving them away,” he said, explaining the causes of the announcement of the former guerrilla fighters to revive a movement that they said will operate underground.
Santos made an analysis of the peace process that ended with the dissolution of the FARC in 2017 and said that the staging of the agreement is on track, despite the normal difficulties of something as complex as a reconciliation after 54 years of war.
“A peace process that has too many aspects with a long time to consolidate... but I am optimistic that what we did has no legal, international and political backslide in the country,” he said.
For the former president (2010-2018) it is a good sign that the most active members of the dissolved FARC, such as Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (Timochenko), Carlos Antonio Losada, Pastor Alape and Pablo Catatumbo, have remained firmly in favor of peace.
“That is good news. This is why what we have seen is that the country with some exceptions believes that the best way to dismiss what happened (the return to arms announcement) is to continue complying or accelerate compliance with the agreements,” he added.
Regarding his critics, Santos said that as defense minister and then as president he did what he thought was right and although it may be unpopular, he would do it again.
“The cost of peace is high. It is more difficult to make peace than war but the cost is always less than continuing the war,” he said.
Santos was in Mexico for the publication of his book “The Battle for Peace” by the Planeta publishing house. The book is the complete story of the difficult road to end the conflict with the FARC, the oldest rebel group in the world.
“I had to be successful in waging war. They called me the executioner of the FARC. Under my mandate and under my ministry it was when the strongest blows were given to the FARC and that was deliberated because one of the necessary conditions for a good peace process was to take them to the negotiating table, feeling convinced that this was the right way. Otherwise, they would never negotiate,” he said.
On the plebiscite with which he tried to ensure that Colombians approved his fight for peace and was refused, he said that he underestimated the power of the lies of his adversaries. But in the end, the no to his proposal was a triumph.
“I think that in the end it was better because we managed to improve many things (in the agreement) that had not been clear enough. Every cloud has a silver lining, and we were better than before,” he concluded.