(Photo: ATL Innovacion)

A councillor in a northern Colombian city has created controversy during a town hall meeting after declaring that peace with the country’s armed rebel groups can only be achieved through sheer firepower, local media reported on Thursday.

Referring to the ongoing peace process between Colombia’s government and the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, councillor Wilber Hinojosa began his speech at the meeting by chastising the pins used the by re-election campaign of incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos to advertise “peace”, Atl Innovision news reported.

Speaking from the city of Valledupar in the state of Cesar, Hinojosa — a member for the Conservative Party — sharply criticized the government of the President, claiming “If we are going to talk about peace, we need to remember the royalties that this government [Santos] took from the state of Cesar, to put us once again in a situation of centralism. That’s not how we achieve peace.”

“By my judgement, peace comes through social investment – and at the same time – with bullets, gentleman.”

However, the most controversial statement he made came when he stated, “by my judgement, peace comes through social investment, and at the same time – with lead [bullets] – gentleman. We aren’t going to negotiate peace with the people commanding the mountains.”

Criticism of peace process amid presidential campaigns

The councillor’s comments come just ten days before Colombia’s second round of presidential elections, which will see President Santos vie for a second term in office against the Democratic Center’s (Centro Democratioc -CD) Oscar Ivan Zuluaga — a staunch critic of the peace talks. A number of politicians, including former president and senator-elect Alvaro Uribe, have openly opposed the talks since they started in 2012.

Criticism over the councillor’s speech have since forced Hinojosa to retract his statements, who said he had only intended to highlight the continued pressure that Colombia’s security forces should be applying to illegally armed groups, reported national newspaper El Espectador.

So far, the dialogues seeking to end Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict have resulted in the agreement of three out of six points on the peace agenda. These include issues of agricultural development that are aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of farmers, agreements on political participation to strengthen democracy, and settlements on how to deal with illicit drugs.

MORE: Peace deal with FARC would mean end to Colombia’s obligatory military service: Santos

Audio of Councillor Hinojosa’s statements


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