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Santos, Colombia's would-be peacemaker

16 june 2014, 11:11

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was re-elected Sunday, is seen as his country's best hope for a potential peace deal with Marxist rebels, AFP reports.

With nearly all votes tallied, the center-right Santos registered 50.90 percent of the vote, compared with 45.04 percent for the more conservative Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Another 4.07 percent were blank protest votes.

Santos, who governs in a coalition with some leftist parties, has led efforts to reach a peace deal the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In contrast, Zuluaga has called for stricter conditions as a prerequisite to any deal.

The president served as defense minister under hawkish president Alvaro Uribe, overseeing a no-holds-barred military campaign against the FARC, who have fought the longest-running insurgency in Latin America.

But Santos, 62, switched tack after his 2010 election, launching peace talks with the FARC two years after taking office.

The negotiations with rebels who have been the government for more than half a century led to a bitter break between Santos and Uribe, his former mentor.

Uribe, who remains popular and is now a senator, accused Santos of betraying the nation and threw his support behind Zuluaga.

Santos told voters during the campaign that he is the best choice for peace after a civil war that has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced five million since 1964.

The scion of a family entrenched in Colombian politics and journalism, Santos worked in the trade and finance ministries before his stint as defense minister.

He studied at the prestigious London School of Economics and was involved in free trade negotiations with Asia, Europe and the United States.

Talks in Havana with the FARC that began in November 2012 have resulted in agreements on three topics of a six-point agenda.

But at least three major issues remain unresolved: the surrender of weapons, compensation for victims and how a final agreement would be ratified.

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