President Juan Manuel Santos has led the drive to end Colombia’s civil war, one of the oldest and most intractable civil wars in the world.
At least 220,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the war began, with millions more injured or driven from their homes by the fighting. From its beginnings as a battle between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the war has mutated into a multi-sided conflict between the army, right-wing paramilitaries, different left-wing groups of anti-government guerrillas and various drug-trafficking and criminal groups. This has had a destabilizing effect on the security of neighbouring states as well as Colombia.
First elected president in 2010 after serving as defence minister, Santos has steadfastly pursued a lasting peace deal with the FARC. In November 2012, he succeeded in establishing formal peace talks, and since then, key agreements have been reached on areas such as land reform, anti-trafficking and the rebels’ political future. Santos was subsequently re-elected in June 2014 largely due to his commitment to the peace process. With his new mandate, he intensified his drive for peace even further during the year, including holding new talks with the country’s smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army.
While a final deal has not yet been signed, and difficult issues remain – including FARC disarmament and reparations to war victims − levels of violence across the country have been decreasing while Colombia’s economic fortunes have been steadily improving.
President Santos has focused great personal energy and political capital on ending the violence, and in so doing has moved his country towards a process of peace and reconciliation, with a far greater chance of success than seemed possible even a few years ago.