BOGOTA – The leaders of Colombia’s political parties on Monday expressed support for President Juan Manuel Santos’s peace efforts at a meeting organized by the government and not attended by opposition Democratic Center party leader and former President Alvaro Uribe.
Santos met with party leaders in the wake of the win by the “No” vote in Sunday’s referendum on the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group.
The “No” option garnered the support of 50.21 percent of voters, while 49.78 percent of those casting ballots voted “Yes.”
“All the parties backing the ‘Yes’ are meeting and we want to make the following clear – we support President Juan Manuel Santos in his efforts to achieve peace,” Congress speaker Mauricio Lizcano told reporters.
Party leaders back “the decision to create a broad and inclusive commission that will open a national dialogue with all the groups on the ‘No’” side,” Lizcano said.
“We expect this commission to set precise timetables and (achieve) concrete results,” the congressional leader said.
House of Representatives speaker Miguel Angel Pinto, Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo and presidential chief of staff Luis Guillermo Velez attended the meeting.
Sen. Armando Benedetti; Berner Zambrano, the representative of Santos’s Partido de la U in the lower house of Congress; and Conservative Party leader David Barguil were also at the gathering.
The Liberal Party was represented by Sen. Horacio Serpa, while the Radical Change party’s Sen. Carlos Fernando Galan and Congressman Rodrigo Lara attended the gathering.
Aida Avella, president of the Patriotic Union party; Sen. Antonio Navarro and Sen. Claudia Lopez, members of the Green Alliance; and Ivan Cepeda, of the Alternative Democratic Pole, were among the other leading politicians invited to the gathering.
All of Colombia’s political parties were invited to send representatives to the closed-door meeting, the government said.
The Democratic Center party, meanwhile, released a statement saying that Uribe, who governed Colombia from 2002 to 2010, stood by his offer Sunday night to “contribute to a great national pact,” a proposal made by Santos after the peace deal lost at the polls.
The opposition party said it wanted its reasons for opposing the peace deal “to be heard.”
Some 34.8 million citizens were eligible to vote “Yes” or “No” Sunday on the agreement between President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel group.
On Sept. 26, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” signed an agreement ending more than half a century of civil war in the Andean nation.
The pact was the result of nearly four years of talks in Havana and was signed at a ceremony in Cartagena before more than 2,500 invited guests, including 15 presidents and Spain’s King Juan Carlos.
The agreement established a timetable for the FARC to lay down its arms and become a legal political organization, as well as an international verification mechanism to ensure that both sides fulfill their commitments.