Three Bogota cabinet members surprisingly renounced their positions on Monday to work for the reelection campaign of incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos.
Santos is seeing strong opposition from rival Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who won the first round on Sunday and is now facing the president in a second-round run-off in June.
Earlier Monday, Zuluaga said that if elected he would suspend ongoing peace talks with the FARC on his first day in office. The hardliner demands that the FARC agrees to a unilateral ceasefire and prison sentences for its leaders and those guilty of war crimes.
The president on the contrary wants to continue the negotiations to end 50 years of violence between the guerrilla group and the state, having recently successfully reached point four of the six-point agenda and estimating that peace could be signed before the end of the year.
However, as Zuluaga’s victory and a coinciding 60% abstention rate demonstrated, campaigning in favor of peace talks with a group that is accused of thousands of human rights violations does not sell well with a constituency that has seen several widely supported protests organized by citizens repressed by the police.
Consequently, the future of the peace talks has become the focal point of the election race that before was marred by scandals involving Santos’ political strategist allegedly receiving $12M in drug money and Zuluaga’s campaign team allegedly wiretapping the peace talks and the presidential palace.
The three officials resigning in Bogota worked for mayor Gustavo Petro, whose impeachment Santos controversially signed off on. A lower court later ordered Santos to reinstate Petro whose movement on the same day announced to be supporting Santos’ bid to four more years in the presidential palace.
In an interview with national newspaper El Tiempo, Bogota Health Secretary Jorge Rojas said he and his colleagues “left the administration to form a broad front for peace, without joining the National Unity [Santos' formal reelection coalition], or accept positions within the government, only because of peace do we endorse Santos.”
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