Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos came to power in 2010
Bogota (AFP) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize Friday, is a son of a powerful family who staked his legacy on troubled efforts to make peace with the communist FARC rebels.
The Nobel Committee hailed the two-term president's "resolute" bid to end Latin America's longest conflict -- despite a shock referendum defeat last weekend for the peace accord he has championed.
"I prefer an imperfect accord that saves lives to a perfect war that keeps sowing death and pain," Santos had said as he signed the historic deal last month with his erstwhile mortal enemy, the FARC guerrilla leader Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez.
Voters rejected the deal to end five decades of conflict by a razor-thin margin in Sunday's referendum -- a move the Nobel committee warned could plunge the country into fresh civil war.
The 65-year-old Santos, a career politician, led a major offensive against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as defense minister from 2006 to 2009.
But after becoming president in 2010, he changed tack and negotiated for a settlement with the guerrillas.
"I was never a hawk or a dove. I've always been a standard-bearer for peace," he told AFP in an interview before the September deal.
- 'Do the right thing' -
Santos defied fierce opposition to the talks from some former allies.
"I am not looking for applause. I just want to do the right thing," he once said.
He won reelection in 2014 in a vote widely seen as a referendum on the talks. But his popularity rating has since plunged.
Santos said receiving the Nobel Prize would be "a great stimulus" for efforts to achieve peace.
"We are very, very close, we just need to push a bit further," he told the Nobel Foundation in a telephone interview.
He accepted the prize "not in my own name, but in the name of all Colombians, especially the millions of victims," he added later in a televised address.
"I will dedicate all my strength to this cause for the rest of my life."
- 'Political courage' -
UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi hailed Santos's "political courage" and voiced hope the impasse could be overcome.
A former hostage of the FARC, Ingrid Betancourt -- a Franco-Colombian former politician who was held in the jungle for six years -- said it was a "just" reward for Santos, but added that the rebels should have shared the Nobel.
Since Santos launched peace negotiations four years ago, his predecessor, ex-president Alvaro Uribe, has become his main critic, arguing that the peace accord offered the rebels impunity for their crimes.
Both Uribe and FARC leader Timochenko congratulated Santos on the award, however.
Santos "made war as a means to achieve peace," Santos's brother-in-law and adviser, Mauricio Rodriguez, told AFP recently.
"He weakened the FARC to make them sit at the negotiating table," he added.
The peace drive "required courage, audacity, perseverance and a lot of strategy -- those are Santos's strengths."
- 'Extreme center' politician -
Santos was born in August 1951 in Bogota into a rich, powerful family entrenched in Colombian politics and the media.
He has described himself as politically in the "extreme center."
He was educated at a top naval academy in the Colombian city of Cartagena and later at the London School of Economics.
Santos began his career as a journalist, winning a Spanish award for his coverage of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua as a young man.
The work he did along with his brother Enrique in Nicaragua "had a profound impact on us both," Santos once said.
In 1991 he switched to politics, and has served in various ministerial posts.
An admirer of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela, Santos is said to be an early riser and late sleeper. He survived prostate cancer in 2012.
His source of strength, he says, is his family -- "my saints," he has called them, playing on his surname which means saints in Spanish.
He and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez have three children.