BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday that his choice to replace departing Vice President German Vargas Lleras is retired Gen. Oscar Naranjo, a former head of the National Police who helped negotiate a peace accord with FARC rebels.
Naranjo “has won the respect of Colombia and the world,” Santos said in an interview with Caracol Radio.
Vargas Lleras is stepping down to run for president in 2018.
The 60-year-old former general has spent his adult life in public service and is credited with bringing the National Police into line with international standards during his tenure as head of the force.
In 2012, Naranjo accepted an appointment to the team representing the Santos administration in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Those talks led to the signing of a pact to end 52 years of armed conflict in the Andean nation.
Santos, the winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, said his selection of Naranjo as vice president was not part of any plan to satisfy the FARC.
“I am not naming a vice president to please the FARC. I am naming a vice president to be able to complete the work of this government,” the president said.
Santos praised Vargas Lleras for taking the lead in a program of infrastructure improvement and wished him well in his presidential bid.
“I hope he does well in his run for the presidency because he deserves to do well for what he has done for the country, though I will not take sides,” Santos said.
In accord with Latin American political tradition, a sitting president does not take part in partisan campaigning.