BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday confirmed Humberto de la Calle as the chief negotiator with FARC rebels, a day after the pact signed by the government and the insurgents went down to defeat in a referendum.
De la Calle, supported by Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin and Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, will “begin the dialogues” to address “all the issues necessary to have an accord and successfully fulfill the dream of all Colombia to end the war with the FARC,” the president said hours after the chief negotiator had come to the presidential palace to offer his resignation.
Santos spoke to the media following a conference with leaders of Colombia’s political parties on how to proceed in the wake of Sunday’s result.
The “no” option won 50.21 percent of the nearly 13 million votes cast, compared with 49.78 percent for “yes,” amid turnout of less than 38 percent.
“The country needs unity. We must leave behind the rancor, hatreds and polarization that have hurt us so much,” Santos said.
All of Colombia’s political parties were invited to Monday’s closed-door meeting, the government said.
But the leader of the Democratic Center party, former President Alvaro Uribe, did not attend.
Uribe, now a senator, was the prime mover behind the “no” campaign ahead of the referendum.
In a statement released before the conference at the palace, Democratic Center announced the appointment of a troika of representatives to meet with administration officials, news that Santos said he welcomed “with enthusiasm.”
“We will continue. We will go on mustering all our effort to leave the coming generations a country at peace, calm, without armed conflict. The country they deserve,” Santos said.
He thanked the parties attending the meeting for their expressions of support, while also expressing gratitude to the foreign governments who extended their solidarity with the Colombian peace process.
Humberto de la Calle headed the government’s team during nearly four years of talks in Havana with a delegation from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, aimed at ending a conflict that began in 1964.
On Sept. 26, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” signed the agreement that emerged from those negotiations.