President Santos Sets July 20 Deadline for Peace, Warns of Tax Increase if Colombia Cannot Reach Deal with FARC
While many are already contemplating the extra expenses Colombia will face if it finalizes a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), President Juan Manuel Santos today said that the conflict is costing the country more than any agreement would.
The difference is large enough that, if the war that has been waging for more than a half-century doesn’t end soon, Santos warned that the government will call for a tax hike. “It’s been said we’ll raise taxes to pay for peace, but it’s the opposite,” said Santos. “If the war continues we’ll have to raise taxes to finance it. War is more expensive.”
Most stakeholders in the nation remain optimistic that a deal can be reached. But some doubt has emerged since the government missed the March 23 deadline it set for a final agreement last year after an historic meeting in Cuba between the president and the top commander of the guerrilla group.
Today, the president also announced another target date on public television, saying that, “I think by July 20 we will have been able to close negotiations in Havana.” The new date carries much symbolic value, as July 20 is independence day in Colombia.
Any accord reached by the negotiators in Cuba will need to be confirmed by a popular vote. As such, Santos’ political opponents have seen his comments about raising taxes, and about the FARC returning to urban war, as intimidation tactics to push through an unfavorable deal.
The president has staked much of his reputation and spent the bulk of his political capital on trying to achieve peace through ongoing talks that began in November 2012. The Santos administration has also said that an end to the conflict could add two percentage points to annual GDP growth and triple the amount of foreign direct investment into Colombia’s economy.