Were he not campaigning to be Colombia's next president, Juan Manuel Santos knows exactly what he would be doin...
Were he not campaigning to be Colombia's next president, Juan Manuel Santos knows exactly what he would be doing.
"I would prefer to be walking in Hyde Park," he said. "I love London. I lived there for more than 10 years. After office I want to be a professor."
But instead of ideological, academic jousts, Mr Santos, 62, is taking part in a very real battle.
He is campaigning for re-election on a pledge to end the country's civil war, which has cost 220,000 lives and become the longest-running conflict in Latin America. His main rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former finance minister, promises if elected to end the controversial peace talks immediately.
On Sunday, voters in Colombia will have to choose. Polls currently put the two men neck-and-neck, with rival Green Party candidate Enrique Penalosa trailing a distant third.
Why is he making the controversial peace talks with Farc, the Left-wing guerrillas, a pillar of this campaign?
"I haven't lived for one single day of my life in a country at peace," Mr Santos told The Telegraph, in his only interview with a British publication.
"This has really sucked our blood, our energy, and made us immune to violence _ which is something a society cannot accept. The peace agreement would be a game changer; a game changer that would really allow Colombia to take off in a splendid way."
His supporters would argue that Colombia has already taken off. Since Mr Santos took office in 2010, economic growth has surged, averaging 4.7 per cent annually. Inflation is low; the economy based on oil, coffee, tourism and manufacturing is booming; and foreign investment has risen steadily during his tenure _ Britain is the second largest single investor, and has set a bilateral trade and investment target of __4bn by 2020. The 2015 target of __1.75bn has already been met.
Colombia remains the equal-highest producer of cocaine in the world, providing - alongside Peru - 44 per cent of the world's supply each. Bolivia accounts for the remaining 12 per cent.
Yet that is a sharp reversal from 2005, when Colombia grew an estimated 90 per cent of the world's coca leaf.
"One of the challenges is still many people think of Colombia as a country where there is only drugs, violence, kidnappings and crime," said Mr Santos. "This is not so. We have to make a big effort in selling the new Colombia.
"If we have been able to achieve what we have in the middle of a conflict, I tell the Colombian people _ imagine what we could do if there wasn't conflict."
Last week the two sides in the peace talks announced they had agreed on ways to end Colombia's vast illicit drugs trade _ the third of a six-point peace agenda.
Since the opening of the peace talks in Havana in September 2012, the sides have agreed on issues of rural development and guerrilla integration into the political process. But the remaining three points are considered the most thorny _ how the estimated 8,000 Farc fighters will lay down their weapons, compensation for conflict victims, and determining whether a final peace deal should be put to a national vote, as the government wants.
But Mr Santos was resolutely upbeat, and hopeful that the announcement _ and the ceasefire that Farc declared for the election period _ would boost his chances.
"Today we are very close, closer than ever to obtaining peace," he told a rally in Bogota, the capital, last Friday. "This is a definite step, an important step, and great news for Colombia and for the whole world."
From his office in Medellin _ the former epicentre of the drug and gang violence _ Ruben Fernandez Andrade agrees that the peace process is vital for the country. His hometown was the centre of Pablo Escobar's global drugs empire; in 1991, a total of 7,081 people were murdered in the city of 1.5 million. Outside his office sits a giant statue in memory of Guillermo Gaviria _ brother of the current mayor, and a pacifist politician who was kidnapped by Farc and executed in 2003.
"This country is accustomed to armed conflict," said Mr Fernandez, who is director of the regional government's Preparemos Para La Paz (Prepare for Peace) think tank. "It's a society used to death. And that has to change.
"This area is one of the most afflicted by the conflict _ the most deaths from mines, the most kidnappings, and the most refugees. Colombia has the highest number of internal refugees in the world _ six million people have fled their homes.
"At times Colombia has spent six per cent of its GDP on fighting. Imagine if a fraction of that was spent on peace? Our society has to learn to do politics without guns."
But others are not convinced that peace talks are the right answer.
A recent poll found that only 39 per cent of Colombians say that dialogue with the rebels is the best way to achieve peace. The rest say the guerrillas should be given a chance to surrender or be defeated militarily _ an argument put forward vociferously by Mr Santos's rival, Mr Zuluaga. The talks are so unpopular that Mr Santos's approval rating has tumbled from 52 per cent in February 2013 and now sits at 38 per cent, according to pollster Ipsos.
"The peace talks are a farce," said Albert Loiza, 48, who owns a small coffee plantation in the town of Salamina, 100 miles south of Medellin.
Mr Loiza, like many in the region, supported Alvaro Uribe _ the charismatic, hardline former president, who was from the city, and is credited by many for "cleaning up" Colombia. Mr Santos, his former defence minister, was elected in continuation of Mr Uribe's policies _ but the two have since spectacularly fallen out, with Mr Uribe vehemently attacking Mr Santos for beginning peace talks.
"Uribe stopped all the violence, but Santos wants to talk to them? It's crazy. They killed a lot of intellectuals and good people who could have helped this country," said Mr Loiza, whose verdant coffee farm produces 100 loads of 125kg each per year.
He sells each load to the regional cooperative for $420; by the time it is sold in the United States, the same load trades hands for $1,500. And his feeling of rural abandonment _ in a country where 76 per cent of the people live in urban areas _ is a commonly-held one.
"Farmers are the backbone of this country, but we are working at a loss," he said. "What has Santos ever done for us?"
Back in Medellin, Fredy Restrepo holds a similarly negative view of Colombia's situation. However, he has more reason than most.
The 53-year-old survived three bombings in the height of the Medellin carnage _ each time, escaping in an incredible stroke of luck: changing his plans at the last minute, perhaps, or stopping at a red light as the bus carried on ahead, and exploded metres away.
He survived the gangs _ but his $500,000 business didn't: when he refused to pay extortion money, the swimming pool installation business collapsed. He fled to Miami with his wife and disabled daughter, but was deported after ten years. Now he drives cars for a living.
"I'm disillusioned with them all," he said. "I won't vote. They are only out for themselves _ Uribe should go quietly, Zuluaga has no experience, and Santos should have got a ceasefire like the IRA did.
"The drug violence has gone, but the crime remains."
And for all the improvements, Colombia still has the 10th highest murder rate in the world _ in South America, only Venezuela is worse. The blood-soaked Scarface-style days of the late 1980s and 1990s may be but a nightmarish memory, but the fear is still there.
"Santos has announced he's bringing in more police, but it's just a stunt for the elections," said Mauricio, 35. Standing outside a bar, in the Medellin commuter town of Itagui, Mauricio said grudgingly that the situation had improved _ but there was still a long way to go.
"Before Uribe, there was no peace in Medellin," he said. "They would kill the bus driver for small change. The drugs lords controlled the place _ it was like living in a film."
Mauricio worked for a telecoms company, repairing cables shot down in gunfights. He tells how they would draw straws to chose who would go into the worst slums, always leaving the zone before midday "when the hitmen woke up" - yet ended up several times with a gun to his head, accused of being a spy for a rival cartel.
"Another time I was up a cable and they started shooting wildly at each other below. It was the most frightening thing ever."
He had voted for Mr Santos in the past, he said _ but would not be doing so again.
"I understand his concerns," said Mr Santos, speaking to The Telegraph in a Medellin hotel, during a break from campaigning. "But in terms of security the facts are there. We have given the most dramatic blows to the illegal groups _ Farc, ELN, and the criminal bands _ in history. We took down number one of Farc, number two, and 53 of their top commanders. They are at the lowest number of people in arms in their history.
"Our homicide rate per 100,000 people is the lowest in 30 years. Kidnapping also, and terrorist attacks, and the type of crime we were used to.
"Of course we have problems with microtrafficking and extortion. When you are successful in attacking the big groups, they subdivide into smaller groups. We are addressing this problem. And let me tell you, this has been and will be a priority for me now and in the future. And it has to be for any government."
And Mr Santos said that it is up to the West to rethink its war on drugs.
"The drug business continues. That is a fact. We don't have the big cartels that we had in the past, and that were able to challenge the government or the state. But as long as people in London continue to use cocaine, the business will be there," he said.
"It's is very difficult to explain to a Colombian peasant that if he grows marijuana he'll go to jail, while in Colorado you can grow it legally. That's why I am asking, and as a leader it's begun to have a response, to have a discussion on an alternative approach to drugs."
Mr Santos will not discuss the specifics of legalisation, or say whether he is in favour of it _ only saying that a debate must be had. His predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, is, unsurprisingly, a fierce critic of any steps to legalise drugs.
Does it concern him that Mr Uribe still looms over everything he does?
"The big challenge is to present a forward-looking country," he said. "You mentioned my predecessor, he wants to pull us back. This is something I don't understand why.
"He is against the peace process; I don't understand why, as he is the one who tried to promote the peace process. The fact that I'm doing it, now he doesn't like it.
"He negotiated with the guerrillas in Cuba for two years _ but now that I'm doing it, he says that I'm legitimising terrorism. Why today is this wrong and incorrect, when he did it?
"So I don't understand his attitude. It's bad for him, bad for me, bad for the country. But I have to continue looking forward, so for me that is the only thing I can do.
Does he speak to him _ other than through Twitter? The two were firm allies until Mr Santos's election, when one of his first gestures was to make amends with Venezuela's firebrand Leftist president, Hugo Chavez. Mr Uribe feels that Mr Santos has stabbed him in the back.
"No, I don't speak to him, because he doesn't want to speak to me," he said. "For example I always invite him to the events which all previous presidents attend. The most recent example was with the funeral of Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) _ the most important Colombian we have had _ in Mexico. I said let's go in my plane, but he never accepted."
Does it irritate you that people say Uribe created the peace _ he's given the credit?
"It doesn't irritate me because the facts are there," he said. "The person who created the conditions for peace is very clear to the Colombian people.
"I was the one who, as minister of defence for Uribe, reorganised the armed forces. During my government we have advanced in the military offensive and are negotiating from a position of strength _ which is what everybody wanted."
He sits back in his chair, and thinks for a moment.
"As any conflict in the world, it has to end through some kind of negotiation," he said. "This is what history has taught us, and what we are applying.
"I don't care who gets the credit. As long as we can sign a peace agreement, and whoever gets the credit, I will be very, very happy."
The Telegraph | By Harriet Alexander