BOGOTA – Humberto de la Calle is approaching the May 27 Colombian presidential election not only as a candidate for the Colombian Liberal Party but also as one who can guarantee peace with the FARC guerrillas, which he himself helped negotiate, in the face of the campaigns of two rightist candidates: German Vargas Lleras and Ivan Duque.
“There is legal protection (for the peace accord), but we can’t be naive – a president adverse to the road of implementing the accords ... enough with the old game of putting (agreements) in the back drawer,” said De la Calle in an interview with EFE.
Duque is the pick of former President Alvaro Uribe, the main opponent of the government and the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the founder of the Democratic Center, and will attend a meeting to align his candidacy with those of conservatives Marta Lucia Ramirez and Alejandro Ordoñez.
“Some (from the Democratic Center) have said that they’re going to shred (the agreement); Dr. Ivan Duque’s candidacy is more moderate on the surface, but not deep down because he insists that the guerrillas must go to jail ... and that they must not participate in politics. That is the heart ... of the agreement,” he said.
Therefore, De la Calle feels that the peace pact “is at risk” but not only from Uribista opposition figures, but also because German Vargas Lleras, who was vice president under Juan Manuel Santos from 2014-2017, also “has put it on the agenda for discussion.”
In the face of this situation, De la Calle feels it is necessary to seek a coalition of different political forces that backed the peace pact, although at the present time that option does not seem to be politically viable. He says, however, that the dialogue to that end will resume after the March 11 legislative elections.
The liberal candidate, who has a long and broad political career during which he has served as vice president, a Cabinet minister and played a key role in the 1991 Constituent Assembly, is also promising to take measures against corruption if he wins the presidency.
“What I propose is to work with Congress on a framework of mutual respect ... I would throw the lawmaker who asks for (bribes) ... out of my office ... It’s the only way because we need to create an earthquake in that edifice of corruption,” he said.
De la Calle feels that the 2018 campaign could be similar to two earlier ones, when allegedly Brazil’s Odebrecht construction firm financed the election campaigns of Juan Manuel Santos and Uribe supporter Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
“I wouldn’t think this firm would be involved (this time) but there could be others,” De la Calle, to whom voter surveys allocate between 5-7 percent of the vote, said.