“Juan Manuel was a good Minister of the Treasury and was obviously elected with Uribe’s votes," says Francisco Santos, "I thought he was going to be a good president. I made a mistake, those of us who voted for him made a mistake."
He’s hyperactive and outspoken. “I am a child of violence,” he says, and remembers episodes that his memory refuses to erase. Today, he is vowing to go after the Presidency of Colombia as a candidate for ‘uribismo’, the party of former president Alvaro Uribe, and he talks about the qualifications that make him the right man to replace Juan Manuel Santos, including his experience as a journalist and Alvaro Uribe’s vice-president.
For Francisco Santos the situation is a bit awkward considering current president, Juan Manuel Santos, is his cousin; but Alvaro Uribe is his mentor. Francisco Santos is a skeptic of the peace process and says his cousin’s administration is not a good one.
Why do you think you have a chance at being president?
Because of my history. I am a child of violence. I was kidnapped by Pablo Escobar; I created País Libre (Free Country), I marched against kidnapping (…) In 2000 I was forced to leave the country because Farc was going to kill me. I returned to continue serving as Vice-President. I learned from the best teacher of public management, of politics, that financial monster and connoisseur of the State: Alvaro Uribe. Those eight years were a PhD in politics and public management.
And your proposals?
I propose a federal nation, judicial reform and industrial policy that defends national industry, which is disappearing because I see that President Juan Manuel Santos’ weakness is that he is disconnected. The country is headed backwards in security, in everything, and I will not let those eight years we were in office, which changed the face of Colombia, go to waste.
Are you torn because on one hand you support Uribe but your cousin is in power on the other?
No. But it’s obviously not the most comfortable position. I believe that the country is above family and it’s moving backwards, it’s doing so in every sense: financial, social, political and in security, which is the basis for everything. We left a country that trusted its leaders but today it doesn’t trust them at all. That’s why, despite the discomfort, I am in the race for the Presidency and I feel it’s time for the country to head in the right direction again.
Is what you’re saying that the government of President Santos is a bad one?
Yes, without a doubt. Santos’ is an administration that fails to execute, one that received a car with a full tank of gas, used it up and doesn’t even know where the nearest gas station is. It’s frankly a government without a north, that gets scared by a headline in a newspaper and runs to change its position. One that set security aside, that is sending contradictory messages to industrial and agricultural leaders, to farmers. It’s a government that arrived with Uribe’s ideas and governed with the opposing party’s: the Liberals. It’s a bad government.
How do you view the peace process?
With skepticism. I feel Farc has sized up the President and they are going to squeeze every last drop out of him. And all behind Colombians’ backs. Do you think it’s a coincidence that agreements are announced right after the poll in which his image came out so poorly; do you think those congressmen traveling to Havana at that very moment is a coincidence? No. The president is using the peace process as a political tool.
Do you have a way to fight President Santos’ eventual reelection?
Absolutely. We will have at least a third of the Congress and the President, and that will be me, Pacho Santos.
I believe in a government that works in the regions, with the people and for the people, so much that I want to institutionalize it as a federal country. I want Uribe in my Government, advising me. It’s as if I started a technology company and Bill Gates came by and said, “let me help you” and I said no. That’s what Santos did and if Uribe allowed me I would make him Defense Minister.