BOGOTA – The vice president-elect of Colombia, Angelino Garzon, said Saturday that the government of Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office on Aug. 7, is ready for dialogue with the FARC guerrillas, though under certain conditions.
“The government of Juan Manuel Santos is not closing the door on peace,” Garzon told reporters in the southwestern city of Cali.
Garzon’s statement came a day after the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, “Alfonso Cano,” proposed to the new Santos government a dialogue leading to reconciliation.
Cano suggested to the Santos government a dialogue in five parts covering the accord allowing the U.S. military to use Colombian bases, human rights and international humanitarian law, land ownership, the political regime, and the economic model.
Garzon said Saturday that the rebels are asked “to set free unconditionally everyone held hostage, to end the practice of kidnapping, of terrorism, and of using anti-personnel mines.”
He also asked that they “set free all boys and girls who have been forcibly recruited and tell the population: this violence is senseless, this violence will not continue,” the vice president-elect said.
“If they (the rebels) show any sign of doing this, they can be sure that Juan Manuel Santos will have all the generosity in the world to forge peace accords as well as processes of reconciliation and pardon,” the vice president-elect said.
But also on Saturday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe admitted that he doesn’t understand how the FARC can be asking for peace while it keeps killing security forces in ambushes such as the one Friday in the municipality of Solita in the southern province of Caqueta.
“It makes me very sad that in Caqueta, faraway in Solita, six members of the police were killed. You can’t understand these bandits – they ask for peace to get headlines and what they do is kill people,” Uribe said.
The president was speaking of the ambush about which the provincial secretary of Caqueta, Edilberto Ramon Endo, offered slightly different numbers: four police and one army soldier slain and two civilians wounded.
Among the fatalities was the Solita police commander, Lieut. Jose Fernando Cajamarca Aldana.
Meanwhile Colombia’s ex-Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said Saturday in San Salvador that the future president of the country, Juan Manuel Santos, should stick to President Uribe’s policy of “standing firm” against the armed groups and backed the rescue of hostages.
Santos “should stick to the policy that President Uribe has developed of standing firm against the terrorists, while at the same time offering possibilities of reinsertion,” said Araujo at the congress of the Christian Democrat Organization of America, or ODCA, which ended Saturday.
He said that during the Uribe administration “more than 50,000 people” of paramilitary and guerrilla groups “have been reinserted” into society.
“This is a peace policy that is serious, that gets results and is what the Colombian people want and support,” said Araujo, who was Uribe’s foreign minister between February 2007 and July 2008, following his escape from the FARC after three years in captivity.