Iván Duque: Santos’ Error Was to Divide Colombia into Friends and Enemies of Peace

Despite serious problems in his young presidency, Duque now seeks to unite a divided country.

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New Colombian president Ivan Duque hopes to bind up Colombia’s wounds (PanAm Post).

President-elect Ivan Duque told Time magazine that the main mistake of the current Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, during the peace process with the ex-guerrilla of the FARC, was “to divide Colombians into friends and enemies of peace. For me there are no enemies, and we all want peace,” he said.

On June 17, during his first speech as president, he addressed the controversial peace agreement: “Today we are all friends working towards building peace, and it must be a peace that above all preserves the desire to allow the guerrilla members demobilization, disarmament, and effective reintegration into society.”

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He added, “a peace process that demands corrections, will have corrections, so that the victims, really, are the center of the process and we guarantee truth, justice, reparation, and not a repetition of previous mistakes.”

In the Time interview, Duque also promises to take Colombia forward by uniting the country, but it is clear that the Centro Democratico candidate faces enormous obstacles.

Corruption and increased unemployment are pressing concerns, in addition to the peace agreement with which ended Latin America’s longest armed internal conflict between the Marxist FARC guerrilla group and the Colombian government, stretching for more than five decades. The article notes that coca crops are reaching new highs in the Andean region, while powerful organized criminal mafias still control significant territory both in Colombia and abroad.

Duque is also facing a regional crisis prompted by Nicolas Maduro’s inept Chavista-style management of Venezuela, which has forced hundreds of thousands of hungry and sick Venezuelans to flee the country, or seek nourishment and medical care in their neighboring country. The border city of Cucuta in the state of Norte de Santander has become a focal point for the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

The president-elect also plans to work with the United States to unify the region’s neighbors and take a tougher stand against Venezuela, where Maduro is consolidating power. “I think our regional diplomacy over the course of the last 20 years has been very weak with respect to Venezuela,” he said.

Duquee, who came to power with the promise to revise the peace agreement, must resolve that paradox if he is to succeed in his ambition to become a new archetype of what a Latin American leader can be, the weekly explains. .

According to the president, the peace agreement with the FARC “left a wound in Colombian society. And I think now is the time to heal that wound.” Duque asserted that his whole life, he has been a person who has believed in peace but assured that the only way to guarantee peace in any society is with the rule of law.

“Duque must modify the agreement in a way that pleases the whole world: the signatories, the Colombians, and the world community,” observes Time.

And he’s committed to maintaining the provisions he says are working, such as the reincorporation of the FARC into civilian life.

According to Gallup, in 2017 only 22% of Colombians had confidence in the government. In contrast, in 2010, during the first days of Juan Manuel Santos’ administration, 84% of Colombians favorably viewed the president.

In order to rectify the government’s low approval, Duque says he will build a Colombia that works for everyone.

“I want to be the president of social justice in Colombia. To increase and improve the quality of health, education, housing, and athletics, but at the same time, guarantee the level of security and justice throughout the country, so that no one feels threatened by criminals. That is the way to guarantee peace.”

While the days of Pablo Escobar are long gone, drug trafficking is still a major industry in Colombia.

“Coca cultivation skyrocketed to 180,000 hectares last year, compared to 48,000 hectares in 2012 at the start of the peace talks,” reports the publication.

These are numbers that have drawn Washington’s attention, since Colombia has received USD $10 billion in aid from the United States since 2000 to fight drug trafficking. Indeed, President Donald Trump had issued a warning to decertify Colombia as a partner in the War on Drugs, a measure that would endanger at least USD $400 million that has been committed to post-conflict Colombia. During Duque’s visit to Washington, Trump told him that his government should take into account that the reduction of illicit crops “is vital for Colombia,” he said.

The article also notes that Duque expresses his admiration for a former president of the United States: “What I admire about Lincoln is his humility, creativity, love for his people, and ability to build consensus in times of crisis.”

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