As the Colombian presidential election scheduled Sunday inches nearer, the candidates continue to flesh out their opinions on fighting the FARC, a terror group that nearly turned the nation into a failed state in the 1990s. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the most conservative candidate in the election, has supported the idea of a FARC political party.
“It is necessary to weaken and disarticulate terrorist actors through our institutions,” Zuluaga said in an interview with Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paolo. He noted that incorporating the moderate elements of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would be necessary while also excluding violent terrorists and dissuading terror with a robust military ready to contain the threat.
Zuluaga made clear that any support of a FARC political party would come if the party were run by non-violent actors. “Those that have committed atrocious crimes against humanity cannot be elected,” he clarified. They, he added, would be serving time in jail, and those with criminal records would be barred from running for office.
Zuluaga’s comments come as something of a surprise given his vocal attacks on current President Juan Manuel Santos for organizing peace talks with FARC leaders, currently taking refuge in Havana. The Havana peace talks, Zuluaga has said, have been “political strategy” and not “real achievements to advance negotiated peace.” He has also called for further military action.
In his interview with the Sao Paolo publication, Zuluaga also took to emphasizing that negotiation with neighboring Venezuela is currently impossible, he believes. “Venezuela is not a democracy and has supported the FARC,” he argued, accusing Santos of “maintaining a silence complicit with Venezuela. He should not – the border with that country is gigantic.” Venezuelan supporters of the FARC are planning a 50th anniversary celebration in Caracas this weekend, in which the safety of terrorist sympathizers from government intervention is guaranteed.
Both Zuluaga and Santos were members of the cabinet of Álvaro Uribe, Santos’ predecessor, who is credited with working with the United States to use anti-al Qaeda tactics to significantly diminish the influence of the FARC in the Colombian jungle. Uribe has endorsed Zuluaga, however, calling Santos too moderate for the position and accusing him of funding his 2012 presidential campaign with money from the illegal drug trade.
Zuluaga is facing his own scandal, however. The candidate is claiming that a video allegedly showing him and campaign officials discussing business with a hacker arrested for intercepting messages between the Colombian government and FARC negotiators in Havana was a “forgery.” The hacker is believed to be part of a larger criminal organization selling confidential information from the FARC negotiations for profit.