Colombia. In the second round of the presidential election June 20, Juan Manuel Santos, leader of an alliance of center-right parties, won a smashing victory over Colombian environmentalist Antanas Mockus. Santos, who lost a victory by just barely a margin in the first round of elections in May, received 69 percent of the votes cast, against just 28 percent for Mockus. In general, Santos’s message of national unity and job-creation measures, given that Colombia has South America’s highest unemployment rate, has gained greater hearing among voters than Mockus’s promises of welfare through tax increases. According to COUNTRYAAH, Colombia has a population of 49.65 million (2018). The victory was also seen as a sign that voters want a continuation of the policies pursued by Álvaro Uribe, who resigned from office after eight years and, among other things, stood for an uncompromising policy towards the country’s leftist guerrillas.
At the same time, the Santos alliance received great support in Congress; 80 percent of the senators and 85 percent of the members of the House of Representatives are behind him during the coming term.
In recent years, the increasingly strained relations with neighboring Venezuela improved somewhat through the election of Santos as president of Colombia. Admittedly, in mid-July, Defense Minister Gabriel Silva published evidence that the top leaders of guerrilla groups FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) were hiding in Venezuela with President Hugo Chávez’s fond memory. While Chávez refused to come to the newly elected Santos presidential installation in Bogotá on August 7, Santos declared that he was steadfastly adhering to his predecessor Uribe’s policy. But within three days of the installation ceremony, Santos contacted both Chávez and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, with whom Uribe had disputes, and all heads of state expressed their will for peace and consensus.
In the war against the FARC, the government won a major propaganda victory in late September when the guerrilla group’s “field marshal” and military strategist Victor Suárez, better known by the nickname Mono Jojoy, were killed in the Macarena Mountains in southern Colombia.
In June 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights declared itself willing to advise the victims of the paramilitary groups in the country. That same month, they had been granted political amnesty for their crimes, and the same amnesty should be extended to crimes committed by the AUC, which is responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations of previous years. For more than a year, there had been secret negotiations on amnesty and demobilization between the government and the AUC. Since November 2003, around 5,000 members of these death patrols had already been demobilized, and the extension of the amnesty law to cover the AUC should pave the way for the demobilization of an additional 10,000 death patrol members. Acc. the secret agreement between the government and the AUC would then have 20 state attorneys max.
Since 2003, FARC and ELN had been somewhat penetrated by the defense of the Uribe government’s total war, but were not as Uribe had wished to be crushed. In January 2005, FARC laida new strategy rather than its guerrilla battle: Plan Resistencia. The plan operates with attacks by small and medium-sized guerrillas against the state security forces. Throughout 2005, the FARC maintained a high level of activity in which the military in the central and southern parts of the country were forced back. In May, internal disagreements in the military culminated in the strategy of the Secretary of Defense firing 4 generals. Until the March 2006 presidential election, the FARC wants to demonstrate that President Uribe’s Plan Patriota has failed. At the same time, the government’s total war has created a huge internal refugee problem. About 3 million Colombians live as internally displaced people in their own country.
In December 2005, the government initiated exploratory peace talks with the ELN in Cuba.
A free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States was signed in February 2006. The agreement was subsequently ratified in the parliaments of the two countries. The agreement is one of the only ones the US has succeeded in contracting with Latin American countries, which for the most part distances from US hegemony. President Uribe was re-elected at the March elections with 62% of the vote.
In 2007, Venezuela offered itself as a mediator in peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. However, the Colombian government tightened its legs for the peace talks that collapsed. In January 2008, the Venezuelan government officially declared that, unlike the US and the EU, it does not regard the FARC as a terrorist organization, but as a legitimate armed rebel organization. This attitude is shared by most Latin American countries. In January 2008, the FARC released two prominent Colombian politicians who had been in one of the FARC’s prisons for several years.
In June 2007, the FARC announced that 11 out of 12 imprisoned politicians had been killed by the Colombian military during an armed rescue operation in Valle de Cauca. At the same time, the FARC invited the International Red Cross (ICRC) and human rights organizations to investigate the deaths and circumstances of their deaths. The government responded again by claiming that the politicians had been executed by the FARC.
In February 2008, the Colombian government organized a protest demonstration against the FARC.