Colombian political foes former President Álvaro Uribe and President-elect Gustavo Petro met Wednesday for a round of dialogue that was unthinkable not so long ago. Following Petro's invitation, the two rivals got together to build bridges during their first face-to-face encounter in Bogota.
In Congress, Petro denounced Uribe's alleged ties to bloodthirsty paramilitary groups in addition to the former president's father's ties to drug trafficking, while Uribe -a former Senator himself- had called him a hit man and a slanderer. The former president (2002-2010) was very popular for his iron fist policy with the former rebels, while Petro has defended the agreements negotiated during the Juan Manuel Santos administration in 2016 which defused most of the FARC guerrillas.
I reaffirm what I said in the campaign, in my government the state will not be used to persecute the opposition, Petro wrote on Instagram after a half-hour meeting alone with the head of the ruling right.
Both leaders, who in the past had sharp altercations in Congress, put on record their intention to engage in a government-opposition dialogue starting Aug. 7, when Petro takes office and becomes Colombia's first-ever leftwing president.
I humbly told him: president, allow me a channel of dialogue with you, I will not bother you much, it will be to talk about country issues. What we can approve we will do it without calculations, Uribe said in a post-meeting press conference. We express that we share all the effort made for this country to accelerate the overcoming of poverty, but that cannot be at the cost of withering the private sector, he added.
After winning the presidential runoff, Petro invited Uribe over to a national agreement dialogue with all political forces to push through with his reforms seeking to overcome poverty and inequality and consolidate peace after six decades of conflict with guerrillas.
Petro, who is also brokering the Parliamentarian support he still lacks, faces opposition from conservatives who are at odds with his past as a guerrilla fighter of the M19 group and fear that his government will further tax the wealthy and affect private property.
The conversation with former President Uribe was profitable and respectful. We found differences and common points, Petro wrote on Twitter.
The incumbent and quite an unpopular President Iván Duque of the Democratic Center did appoint a candidate from within its own party ranks and, instead, he supported right-winger Federico Fico Gutiérrez, who failed to make it to the runoff.
Uribe insisted Wednesday on his idea of reforming the peace tribunal that judges the most atrocious crimes committed during the conflict, considering that its judges are biased towards the military, a proposal that Petro has always opposed.