President Juan Manuel Santos is expressing his interest in reconciling with former Colombian President and current Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez. The move comes as a surprise, as the two have been fierce critics of each other during Santos’ presidency. Uribe originally campaigned for Santos, who turned against many of Uribe’s policies and implemented the controversial 2016 Havana Accords against the will of the Colombian people.
“I would like to leave the country less polarizized than it currently is. For me, it would be an immense pleasure. I think about what is best for the country, which is to reconcile with my predecessor, ex-president Uribe”, Santos said. Santos has spoken with the press several times this week, as he considers his own legacy and prepares for his final year in office.
Santos became president in 2010 after serving in Uribe’s administration, where he was the Minister of Defense. At that time, Uribe was also part of the Party of the U, but abandoned it to create the Centro Democrático party after Santos’ party moved to the left of center. Following his defection, Uribe started differentiating himself from Santos and ultimately became his greatest opponent and critic, polarizing the population and turning his home province of Antioquia against Santos.
The current chief-of-state, Santos, specified that the conflict has practically divided the country in half and that he has tried to approach Uribe many times without success.
“This country needs this reconciliation. If we could reconcile with the FARC, how could we not reconcile between ourselves, Colombians, who unfortunately in 200 years as a republic, had more wars than any other country in Latin America? (…) The moment for change and to live in peace together has arrived”.
Pope Francis will also visit Colombia soon, and it is expected that he will support the process of reconciliation. Santos himself said that a change in attitude has helped him to see relations in a different way. For example, he said that he learned not to treat guerrilla members as enemies, but as adversaries, because one tries to exterminate enemies, but to defeat adversaries.
Uribe has yet to comment on Santos’ outreach, but he continued to tweet against the accords signed with the FARC.
Justifican armar a Farc diciendo que como Gobernador tuve escoltas del M19. Nunca reparo escoltas, no nombro ni veto. "Me acabo de enterar"
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 10, 2017