Colombia’s richest man, Luis Carlos Sarmiento and powerful figures from the banking and real estate sectors have endorsed the reelection campaign of Juan Manuel Santos, reported Colombia’s media on Thursday.
Sarmiento, the chairman of Grupo Aval, one of the largest banking conglomerates in Latin America, endorsed Santos during a forum on Wednesday, citing peace in Colombia as one of the major factors.
The Colombian government has been in peace negotiations with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia since August 2012 in Havana, Cuba, and on Tuesday announced talks with the second-largest guerrilla group, the ELN.
“I have supported the peace process, I like the peace process [...] and it [the war] is not logical, nor just and it must be ended,” Sarmiento stated during a forum of National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF) and the Fedesarrollo, an economic research organization.
The candidates have been the most vocal on the issue of the differing plans for peace, as incumbent President and U Party candidate Juan Manuel Santos has promised to continue peace negotiations with guerrilla groups, while Democratic Center party challenger, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga has made putting strict restrictions on the guerrilla groups a requirement to continue the peace negotiations.
Other major executives, including Pedro Gomez, architect and creator of the Unicentro malls found across Colombia and ex-President of bank Bancolombia, Jorge Londoño also threw their support behind Santos in an open letter including many other executives across the country.
In the letter, the executives also stated that “you [Santos] direct a government that shows economic results without precedent, a rise in formal employment, constant increase in foreign investment, the modernization of infrastructure and excellent international relations.”
Also cited in the letter was their support for the peace process, where the executives stated, “We highlight and renew our total confidence in the [peace] process and the effort to construct peace for all Colombians…”
Ex-President and vocal critic of the Santos administration, Alvaro Uribe Velez responded to the endorsements by stating via Twitter, “Businessmen who support Santos put Colombia at risk of being in the jaws of the FARC, Nicloas Maduro (Venezuelan President) and the extreme left.”
Uribe has promoted Santos’ challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga through his Democratic Center (Centro Democrático — CD) Party, aimed at providing a right-wing opposition to Juan Manuel Santos.
Empresarios que apoyan a Santos ponen a Colombia en riesgo de quedar en las fauces de Farc, Maduro y extremo izquierdismo.
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) 12. Juni 2014
This is the latest in a series of endorsements for Juan Manuel Santos, including figures such as Ivan Cepeda, Aida Avella and Clara Lopez from the left, and several prominent Conservative Party members from the right.