Updated 12:26 PM EST, Thu, Jan 20, 2022

On the Map- Latin America: Will Colombia's Presidential Election Affect the US and Negotiations With FARC?

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Colombians are just months away from choosing their next president in an election that could impact the country’s relationship with the United States and the ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The elections, which are scheduled for May 2014, will include a reelection bid by current president, and U.S. ally, Juan Manuel Santos.

Santos, who was elected president in 2010, announced his reelection bid on Nov. 20, citing his work in negotiating with the FARC. During a televised statement announcing his reelection bid, Santos said, “When you see the light at the end of the tunnel you don’t go backwards. We will finish the job.”

Despite being a favorite to win, Santos faces challenges from his conservative opponent Oscar Zuluaga, who opposes peace talks with the rebel group. According to The Guardian, a recent Invamer-Gallup poll found that 27 percent of people surveyed would vote for Santos, while 15 percent would vote for Zuluaga, a former finance minister.

If Santos is reelected, the 62-year-old would have an additional four years to work out a negotiation with the FARC. Negotiations with the rebel group, which have been ongoing for nearly 50 years, have been slow, but promising.

In early October, FARC negotiator Andres Paris told reporters that the FARC was willing to suspend peace talks during the election season. However, Paris said that the group was “nailed” to the negotiation table. Meanwhile, Santos called for accelerated talks to avoid skepticism about progress.

“I say again to the FARC: accelerate this process," Santos said. "This is important for the process itself. We need to move, we need to reach agreements, we can not continue indefinitely postponing decisions...The Colombian people will gradually increase their skepticism, and that’s bad for the pursuit of peace.”

Santos' opponent, however, argues that the negotiations with the rebel group have brought about uncertainty and an upsurge in attacks on infrastructure, the Guardian reported. According to Zuluaga, Santos has not only offered FARC too many concessions, but is only pursuing the peace talks to land himself in the history books.

While Zuluaga counts on former President Alvaro Uribe, Santos counts on U.S. President Barack Obama as an ally in regards to the peace talks. During a trip to the White House this week, Santos spoke about the two countries’ fierce alliance. In turn, President Obama applauded Santos for increased security operations as well as the peace talks with the FARC.

The president said those factors have allowed the two nations to “widen our discussion to a whole host of issues: how we can improve education and economic opportunity in Colombia; how we can work together on energy projects that are vital to the region; how we can take advantage of new technologies to expand the ability for a rural child to be exposed to the world; and how we can work in partnership together on many of the key regional challenges that take place.”

It seems unlikely, however, that relations between the U.S. and Colombia would tense if Santos were to lose the elections. Former President Uribe sustained a strong relationship with the U.S. government, which included several trade agreements as well as a military agreement.

The first round of the presidential elections in Colombia is scheduled for May 25, 2014

The 'On the Map- Latin America' series will focus on issues and events occurring in Latin America. The series will cover a wide range of topics, from politics to culture to breaking news.  

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