“The Farc plays with fire by not recognizing forced recruitment and abuse”: Juan Manuel Santos

EFE | THE COUNTRY | Bogota

Former president Juan Manuel Santos, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2016, considers that there are members of the Farc party who play with fire by not acknowledging that there was forced recruitment of minors and sexual abuse in the former guerrilla.

“It seems to me an error, it seems to me an error on the part of some FARC spokesmen because others are recognizing them,” Santos said in an interview via Zoom with Efe on the occasion of the presentation of his book “An optimistic message for a world in crisis “, edited by Planeta.

In the last weeks the controversy over the different abuses committed by the Farc, now turned into a political party, was revived in Colombia after some of its representatives, such as the second vice president of the Senate, Griselda Lobo, known as “Sandra Ramírez”, deny crimes of that nature.

According to the former president, who signed peace with the FARC in November 2016, those involved “must go to the Special Justice of Peace and there make the recognition and ask for forgiveness because if they do not do so they lose their legal benefits” and risk being tried. by ordinary justice.

“So there they are, as they say, playing with fire,” said Santos, who was president of Colombia between 2010 and 2018.

Message of hope

With his book, the ex-president seeks to give an optimistic message at a time when the world is seized by anguish and pessimism over the coronavirus pandemic, and that is why he proposes to “regain hope, regain courage because there is always the possibility of a better future”.

In this work, Santos addresses 11 major issues that he complements with interviews with experts to show Colombians, data in hand, that the country is not going as bad as many believe, that in the last 30 years there have been great advances and that the glass is there than seeing it half full and not half empty.

The themes are poverty; economy; infrastructure, public services and housing; education; Health; gender equality, diversity, environment and peace.

In the latter, the interviewee is the last leader of the FARC guerrilla and president of the party of the same name, Rodrigo Londoño, known as “Timochenko”, with whom he signed the peace agreement.

Irreversible peace

When asked by Santos whether something in the agreement went wrong, Londoño affirmed that “the land issue was fatal” and added: “if it is not resolved, this could be a failed peace process.”

In this regard, Santos considers that “peace is irreversible” and recalls that “the FARC, Timochenko himself has said, will never return to arms again.”

The former president regrets that there are, however, “sectors that want to maintain violence, such as drug trafficking that is undoubtedly assassinating all the leaders who are promoting the voluntary substitution of illicit crops,” or the landowners who acquired land illegally and to prevent return them to their rightful owners “they are murdering the claimants.”

In the same position “are those interested in increasing the agricultural frontier” who “for that reason are assassinating the environmentalists”, or the FARC dissidents who abandoned the peace agreement, among them former chiefs such as “Iván Márquez” and “Jesús Santrich. “.

“Today, Santrich and Márquez are part of that lumpen, of those criminal gangs,” he says.

Changes to improve

Santos points out that he decided to publish the book in the middle of the pandemic, prefaced by the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University, precisely to show that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, despite the fact that “the world , the country is in a state of discouragement and despair. “

The former president points out that just as Colombia was “on the verge of being considered a failed state” 30 years ago and managed to advance “in an impressive way” in many areas, and even join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development during his government. (OECD), you can get ahead of the covid-19 crisis, which is devastating the world economy.

“If we manage to get out of such a situation and place ourselves at the forefront in many of the social and economic indicators, in the same way we can get out of this pandemic and aspire to be better than before, but for that we need a reflection on the changes that we have to do, “he says.

Social progress

He explains that although the current crisis will increase poverty and inequities, it is also “a great opportunity to correct structural problems” that emerged in social protests at the end of last year in various countries of the world, and in Latin America, particularly in Chile and Colombia, because progress is not being measured as it should.

“We have to reformulate that vision of the country with other indicators of what progress really means. Progress is not only gross domestic product, progress, deep down, must translate into greater well-being for the people,” he says.

That is why he believes that the measurement of progress should include access to health, education, equity and sustainability, something similar to what the kingdom of Bhutan does, which coined the concept of gross national happiness.

“Today that we see with the pandemic how health systems have been so fragile, that indicator should be an indicator of progress,” says the Nobel, adding that growth cannot be done “by destroying the future”, for which he recommends “give greater sustainability to the planet and the country.”

Errors in Venezuela

In the book’s introduction, Santos dedicates a few lines to the situation in Venezuela and affirms that “it will normalize when so many mistakes are stopped in the delicate strategic game of international diplomacy,” such as the desire to overthrow Nicolás Maduro with a caravan humanitarian aid, or with the sanctions of the United States, among others.

“Many mistakes have been made, the fundamental actors that can produce a solution in Venezuela have been unknown and I will tell you which are those fundamental actors: Russia, China, Cuba, the United States and Latin America. Those are the forces that, of course with an agreement between the opposition and the regime, they could lead to a peaceful and negotiated solution, “he said.

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