Interview with His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos, Former President of Colombia

On April 22, 2019, former President of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mr. Juan Manuel Santos spoke at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy after a screening of his new documentary, “Port of Destiny: Peace“. His interview was conducted by Bowen Peard and Fatima Taskomur of the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.


FF: You were a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and have notably served as president of the Freedom of Expression Commission at the Inter American Press Association. How do you view the development of journalism over the past several decades? Furthermore, what should be journalism’s role in promoting a healthy civil society?

JMS: Well, journalists are typically known as the watchdogs of society. That’s why many governments don’t like journalists, because they only criticize and are not accustomed to celebrating the successes of governments. This is a normal bias in journalism, and this basic principle to go after the truth and to discover what is going wrong is something that journalism should never surrender. In today’s world, what I’m worried about is how journalism has lost a bit of its depth because of social media. For example, the editor, the publisher, or the journalist [who normally] takes time to investigate is now pressed by social media and media technology to deliver, and that lowers the quality of the journalism that we have.

FF: Now, we’d like to transition into your role in peace talks with the FARC. Following the peace talks, the decision first went to a referendum and was rejected by the Colombian people in 2016. This was a blow to your administration’s strategy in ending the conflict. Could you please talk a little bit about your administration’s reaction to this outcome and your steps in the peace agreement afterward?

JMS: When we lost the referendum, it was very surprising because we thought that it would never happen, so I decided to seek an opportunity from the crisis that we had. I took advantage of the fact that the leaders of the no-vote had always said that they were also in favor of peace. So, I brought them in and told them, “What is it that you don’t like about this peace process? What peace do you like?” We then started negotiating around the amendments and proposals that they had. We ended up with a better peace agreement as well as a stronger peace agreement. Many of the changes that we made did not fundamentally change what we had a negotiated in the first agreement. In a way, we were all far better off afterwards than before.


To read the rest of the article, go to The Fletcher Forum.

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