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Juan Manuel Santos Must Resign to Continue the Peace Process in Colombia

By: Daniel Raisbeck - @DanielRaisbeck - Oct 5, 2016, 10:52 am
Juan Manuel Santos must assume the political cost of his defeat (YouTube)
Juan Manuel Santos must assume the political cost of his defeat (YouTube)

EspañolThe head of government who has been in power since 2010, having secured his re-election by a decent margin, calls a referendum in 2016 to decide the most important issue that has faced the country in decades.

He has no doubt that his side will triumph. He has large state resources for the campaign and the support of virtually the entire political class. He receives the accolade of the most respected intellectuals of large national companies, virtually all major media and the “international community”: European governments, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. Even the administration of US President Barack Obama intervened to pressure the country’s voters to support the “right” choice: one that suits the establishment.

On the other side, meanwhile, are only a few politicians who “opinion makers” consider populist, passé or adventurers. Second stringers who will only get support from some isolated misinformed voters. Surveys say there is no way to lose to this bunch of misfits.

When election day comes, however, the head of government and the entire political establishment suffers a defeat by relatively few votes. Against all predictions of the “prestigious” pollsters, the opposition and politically incorrect coalition achieved a victory that shocked the international media. “What will they think of the country abroad?”, the “intellectuals” wonder. Soon, they begin to question the very democracy, blaming the lack of intelligence of most voters about the impending debacle.

The head of state, however, is not only a democrat but also a gentleman, and therefore understand the magnitude of his failure. David Cameron takes responsibility for the victory of Brexit and resigns as Prime Minister of Great Britain the day after the vote.  This to allow his successor to be in charge of negotiations with the European Union. For the sake of the country, there was no other choice but to resign with honor. Cameron had played his mandate in the outcome of the plebiscite and had lost overwhelmingly.

After losing the plebiscite on October 2 in Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos is in exactly the same position as Cameron after the vote that led to Brexit. Since taking office, Santos has staked his legacy to you all peace negotiations that began with the FARC, contrary to its initial position before being elected for the first time. Most Colombian voters went to the polls decided to reject the agreement. If Santos is wise, he will understand that he has no choice other than to resign.

In his remarks after his defeat, Santos referred to the “narrow margin” of the “No” and said “the other half of the country has said “Yes”.  But that is to ignore the enormous advantages which the “Yes” campaign had from the beginning: the constant state propaganda promoting the agreement; huge amounts of money for the campaign; the threshold of 13 percent (instead of 50 percent usually required by law for a referendum to be valid); the support of the vast majority of reputable journalists; the question presented to voters, which referred to “stable and lasting peace,” not mentioning the government nor FARC. But it was not enough.

Totally agree, senator Uribe does not own the NO vote.  And NO means wanting to end the war, but to negotiate 

Rightly, Santos said he will call “to all political forces, particularly those expressed by the “No” to hear them and to encourage dialogue to determine the way forward”.

Surely it is essential to keep the negotiations and bilateral ceasefire with FARC. They also need incorporating representatives of the majority coalition that won the plebiscite opposing the current agreement. We must remember that the result of yesterday does not belong only to the president Alvaro Uribe or his party.  While recognizing that most voters “No” are his followers. However, independent promoters of “No” such as Jaime Castro, Pedro Medellin and Hugo Palacios Mejía also played a key role. It is also undeniable that a significant minority who voted “No” does not feel represented by Uribe. These independent groups must also be taken into account when resuming negotiations with the FARC. For the sake of peace, however, it should not be Santos who leads the process.

Although reconciliation should prevail and the promoters of the “No” should we be magnanimous in victory, Santos himself must recognize that his credibility has collapsed. During the campaign, he threatened that the “urban warfare” would return to the cities if the “No” won. Now he admits that the FARC will no longer take up arms immediately.

Santos must take ultimate responsibility, especially because he was the author of one of the biggest mistakes of his side.  He said in a university forum that the president can ask the question of the plebiscite “that he pleases.” The ambition to go down in history as the president who gave peace to Colombia did, like Macbeth, lose all sense of proportion.

Interestingly, most of those who maintain that Santos should remain in power to ensure institutional stability saw no danger for institutions with direct seats to the FARC in Congress, or a parallel justice system to judge their crimes. Nor do they seem to recognize that, following the resignation of Santos, the transition to a Vargas Lleras, his vice president would be immediate and would pass without inconvenience. In that sense there is a clear contrast with a parliamentary system like Britain, where the resignation of a prime minister can lead to a harsh debate for taking months or weeks to replace.

According to press reports, Santos is an Anglophile who, when he “lived in London, liked to buy (his shirts) in the exclusive area of Jermyn Street”. Today, to oxygenate the peace process, he must take the non superficial feature of an English gentleman and resign his position, now that it is untenable to stay in such positiion. After all, Santos himself hinted in an interview with the BBC that he would leave the presidency if he lost the plebiscite. It’s time to keep his word.

Daniel Raisbeck

Head Editor

PanAm Post

Daniel Raisbeck Daniel Raisbeck

Daniel Raisbeck is the PanAm Post's Chief Editor. He ran for Mayor of Bogotá in 2015 as an independent candidate. Follow him @DanielRaisbeck.