BOGOTA – Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said on Friday that his administration would continue to comply with the terms of the peace deal it signed a year ago with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
“I know the FARC have complaints and concerns. I’ll be meeting today with their leaders in the best spirit possible to resolve their apprehensions as far as possible. But there should be no doubt: we’ll continue to comply with the agreements,” Santos said at an anniversary ceremony.
Speaking at Bogota’s Teatro Colon, where the peace agreement was signed on Nov. 24, 2016, Santos said “building peace is the biggest, most important challenge for any country.”
The president urged his fellow Colombian citizens to continue to move forward and come together and above all not to “succumb to pessimism.”
“I invite you to construct peace and thereby free up all our potential and capitalize on all the opportunities our beautiful Colombia offers us,” Santos said.
The head of state said reaching an agreement with the FARC after decades of armed conflict and four years of talks in Cuba had been difficult but that achieving peace had saved thousands of lives and made all the efforts worthwhile.
Building peace, however, “is much more than bringing an end to attacks and confrontations.”
In that regard, he cited a report by the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which found that the Colombian peace deal was among the best-designed and thorough agreements of its kind.
Santos also mentioned the murders of 111 social leaders between the start of 2016 and the present, saying that his government was working to bring a halt to these crimes.
Of those 111 cases, investigators have “identified the perpetrators in more than half of them.”
“The Attorney General’s Office has concluded that so far we can’t say there’s a pattern, a systematic action against them. The motives are diverse and often are unrelated to their social and political activity,” the president said.
Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (better known as Timochenko), the guerrilla group’s top commander at the time of the peace talks, also spoke at the anniversary event.
Timochenko has been named the candidate of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC), the party founded by the former rebels, in next year’s presidential election.
Under the terms of the peace deal, former FARC guerrillas are allowed to participate in politics. Potential candidates, however, may be barred from competing in elections if convicted of war crimes by special tribunals.
Although Timochenko did not appear on stage with Santos like he did a year ago, the two were scheduled to meet privately Friday afternoon.
Santos is completing his second term in office and is ineligible to stand for re-election in May 2018.