Peace deal de­feat leaves sup­port­ers in limbo

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

Sup­port­ers of the peace ac­cord signed be­tween the Colom­bian gov­ern­ment and rebels of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, FARC, fol­low on a gi­ant screen the re­sults of a ref­er­en­dum. Colom­bia’s peace deal with left­ist rebels col­lapsed in a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on Sun­day. BO­GOTA (AP): A STUN­NING ref­er­en­dum de­feat for a peace deal with left­ist rebels leaves Colom­bians with no Plan B to save an ac­cord that sought to bring an end to a half cen­tury of hos­til­i­ties.

In­stead of win­ning by an al­most two-to-one mar­gin on Sun­day as pre-elec­tion polls had pre­dicted, those favour­ing the ac­cord with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia lost by a ra­zor-thin mar­gin, 49.8 per cent to 50.2 per cent for those against the deal.

Both Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos and lead­ers of the FARC, af­ter four years of gru­elling ne­go­ti­a­tions, vowed to push ahead, giv­ing no hint that they want to re­sume a war that has al­ready killed 220,000 peo­ple and dis­placed eight mil­lion.

“I won’t give up. I’ll con­tinue search for peace un­til the last mo­ment of my man­date,” San­tos said in a tele­vised ad­dress ap­peal­ing for calm.

But it’s not clear how the al­ready un­pop­u­lar San­tos can save the deal af­ter the stun­ning po­lit­i­cal de­feat. He has or­dered his ne­go­tia­tors to re­turn to Cuba on Mon­day to con­fer with FARC’s top lead­ers, who watched the re­sults with dis­be­lief af­ter or­der­ing drinks and cigars at Club Ha­vana, once Cuba’s most ex­clu­sive beach club.

“The FARC deeply re­gret that the de­struc­tive power of those who sow ha­tred and re­venge have in­flu­enced the Colom­bian peo­ple’s opin­ion,” the FARC’s top com­man­der, a guer­rilla known as Ti­mochenko, told re­porters.

The loss for the gov­ern­ment was even more shock­ing con­sid­er­ing the huge sup­port for the ac­cord among for­eign lead­ers, who have her­alded it as a model for a world be­set by po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism. Many heads of state as well as UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon and US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry were present when San­tos and Ti­mochenko signed the deal less than a week ago in an elab­o­rate, emo­tional cer­e­mony.


With the out­look un­cer­tain, all eyes are on San­tos’ for­mer boss and chief ri­val: Al­varo Uribe, the pow­er­ful for­mer pres­i­dent who led the grass-roots cam­paign against the ac­cord. With none of the gov­ern­ment’s huge PR ma­chine, an an­gry Uribe gave voice to mil­lions of Colom­bians, many of them vic­tims of the FARC like him, who bris­tled at pro­vi­sions in the 297page ac­cord spar­ing rebels jail time if they con­fessed their crimes and in­stead re­served them 10 seats in Congress.

Across town, hun­dreds of sup­port­ers of the peace deal who had gath­ered in a ho­tel ball­room for what they ex­pected would be a vic­tory party with San­tos wept in de­spair.

The FARC’s 7,000 guer­rilla fight­ers are un­likely to re­turn to the bat­tle­field any­time soon. For now, a cease­fire re­mains in place.

“In the end, hate to­wards the FARC won out over hope for the fu­ture,” said Ja­son Mar­czack, an ex­pert on Latin Amer­ica at the Washington-based At­lantic Coun­cil.


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