– The Commission decided in favor of the Colombian president because he made enormous efforts to end the half-century-long civil war that claimed the lives of at least 220,000 people and forced nearly six million Colombians to flee… However, there is now a great danger that the peace process will come to a standstill and the fighting will be renewed… With the Nobel Peace Prize, we want to encourage the parties for the sake of peace as soon as possible,” reads the statement of the Oslo Commission.
Juan Manuel Santos stood in front of the cameras on Friday in the company of his family and emphasized that he will dedicate every day of the remaining two years of his term of office to peace. – I offer the award to the victims so that this conflict never again claims human life. We have to reconcile, we have to go through the reconciliation process – quotes El Tiempo Santos, who, according to him, was woken up by his son, Martín, at dawn on Friday local time with the news.
|Photo: John Vizcaino/Reuters|
The liberal politician – whom the leader of the far-left guerrillas, Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono, congratulated in a terse statement – is the second Colombian, after Gabriel García Márquez, to be awarded the Nobel Prize (Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature by the Swedish Academy in 1982). The last time a South American candidate was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was in 1992, when Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan activist, was awarded the prize for her work to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
In addition to the recognition, Santos has a considerable burden, as he has to maneuver the country of 47 million people from a hopeless situation towards peace. The far-left guerrillas – who took up arms in 1964 partly to protect the exploited peasants – fought the government and right-wing paramilitary organizations for 52 years. Horrible atrocities were committed by all sides in the conflict. Although representatives of the FARC and the government have sat at the negotiating table several times in the past half century, the attempts have often failed. In 2012, however, there was sufficient will, and after four years of tough negotiations, the peace treaty was signed in September.
|Photo: John Vizcaino/Reuters|
However, according to many Colombians, the guerrillas, who support themselves from drug trafficking, defense money and kidnappings, got away too easily. The agreement practically offered them amnesty, and ensured that the FARC would participate in political life as a political party, following the example of Northern Ireland. In the October 2nd referendum, the genders rejecting the peace agreement – and demanding a new contract – won by 50.2 percent. The parties were unprepared for this outcome, but so far they seem committed to peace and have returned to the negotiating table in Havana. The question is how long will the guerrillas’ patience last. The Nobel Peace Prize might solidify their commitment. – The important recognition should serve as an ethical and moral support for the parties to move forward on the road to peace – Carlos Medina Gallego, FARC expert at the National University of Colombia, pointed out to our newspaper.
Juan Manuel Santos was born in Bogotá in 1951, the son of one of the wealthiest families. Their empire included the country’s leading daily newspaper, El Tiempo. Santos worked as an editor at the newspaper for a while, but the economist, who graduated in Kansas and London, eventually chose a political career. In the last 25 years, he held the positions of Minister of Foreign Trade, Finance and Defense. In 2010, he won the presidential election as a candidate of the National Unity Social Party.