Nobel Peace Prize winner Santos’ peace deal with Farc is benchmark of his presidency (Profile)

Bogota (Colombia), Oct 7 (IANS) One of the most notable accomplishments of the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos, the current and 32nd President of Colombia, has been his success in bringing the leftist FARC to the bargaining table after decades of conflict.

The Harvard educated 65-year-old Santos has bagged the 2016 Nobel Prize for Peace for intensely battling the 52-year-old conflict with the leftist rebel group, the longest running war in the Americas.

Santos, who belongs to one of the most wealthiest families in the Colombian capital Bogota, initiated direct peace negotiations with the guerrillas in 2012.

The start of the talks, which began in Oslo and then continued in Havana, led Santos’s popularity to “spike to roughly 60% approval,” Britannica reports.

The talks continued into 2013 and 2014 – the year in which Santos won re-election with just 50.95% of the vote. Over the next couple of years, cease-fires were initiated and disrupted, Santos meeting with the FARC throughout. Eventually, on September 23, it was announced that they had agreed to reach a final peace accord within six months and, after a slight delay, a historic final peace agreement was signed on September 26, in Havana after four years of negotiations, with a pen made from a bullet, time.com reported.

Colombians went to the polls on October 2, but the country voted to reject his government’s peace agreement with the FARC by less than 0.5%.

The FARC say they will honor a ceasefire, which Santos has said will end on October 31.

Santos’ full name is sometimes given as Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. In keeping with Spanish naming traditions, the first family name comes from his father, while the second come from his mother.

The politician owns a restaurant chain, the “Fat Santos Burger,” and a football team called the Bogotá Angels.

In 1981, Santos began working at ‘El Tiempo’, a national newspaper that his family had a controlling interest in. He later became the director of the paper, and kept that post for eight years.

He rose to power as the country’s Defence Minister between 2006 and 2009 under the then President Alvaro Uribe.

During that term, he organised an intense counter-insurgency campaign that diminished many commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with whom the country has been waging the major guerrila struggle since 1964, in which 220,000 people were killed, 40,000 missing and 5.7 million came under the displaced category,

As President, in office since 2010, Santos staked his legacy on ending the war. The peace accord, announced in August, was the culmination of four years of negotiations in Havana, as the Colombian government and the rebels worked their way through a series of impasses, the New York Times reported.

Termed as the benchmark of his presidency, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, signed the peace agreement on September 26 and was put to the Columbian people in the referendum.

But wish for peace stayed short-lived as Columbians rejected the agreement in a shocking result with majority opting for ‘No’, the reason why the Nobel committee said it hoped the prize would encourage the parties to continue working towards peace.

“It is for the victims and so that there not be a single new victim, not a single new casualty that we must reconcile and unite to culminate this process and begin to construct a stable and durable peace,” Santos said on Friday, after being announced as the winner.

The reaction in Colombia has been largely positive, with many seeing the prize as a sign of support for the country and faith in the peace process.

Former president Álvaro Uribe, who campaigned vehemently against the peace deal with the Farc and has been a constant critic of Santos, has congratulated Santos, but indicated he will still insist on changes to the deal.

“I celebrate the Nobel for President Santos, I hope it will lead to changing the accord that is harmful for democracy,” he tweeted, The Guardian reported.

Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for Farc, also congratulated the president.

“We hope that the Nobel peace prize gives President Santos strength to give life to the final agreement and dignity for all Colombians.”

–IANS

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