Colom­bia, FARC to sign peace deal de­spite Uribe ob­jec­tions

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS -

COLOM­BIA’S GOV­ERN­MENT and left­ist rebels say they will sign a mod­i­fied peace agree­ment to­day on Thurs­day, de­spite strong re­sis­tance from for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe.

The sign­ing cer­e­mony prom­ises to be a more sub­dued event than the heav­ily sym­bolic one at­tended by sev­eral heads of state in Septem­ber in the colo­nial city of Carta­gena. Re­flect­ing the more som­bre mood in the coun­try af­ter the orig­i­nal deal was nar­rowly re­jected by vot­ers in a ref­er­en­dum, it will be held at the tiny Colon the­atre in down­town Bo­gota.

The de­ci­sion to sign the ac­cord and sub­mit it to Congress for ap­proval was agreed to Tues­day by gov­ern­ment peace ne­go­tia­tors and lead­ers of the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia dur­ing a day of closed-door meet­ings at a heav­ily guarded Ro­man Catholic re­treat in Bo­gota.

It fol­lowed a seven-hour meet­ing on Monday night in which gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors tried to per­suade Uribe and other scep­tics to sup­port the ac­cord that would put an end to a half­cen­tury of fight­ing with the FARC

Ever since the orig­i­nal deal’s de­feat at the polls, the FARC and gov­ern­ment ne­go­tia­tors have worked around the clock to in­tro­duce over 50 changes to make it more ac­cept­able to con­ser­va­tive Colom­bians who over­whelm­ingly de­spise the FARC

Uribe, a still-pop­u­lar fig­ure who has led op­po­si­tion to the peace deal, said on Tues­day that the changes are cos­metic and that the ac­cord, if im­ple­mented, rep­re­sents a risk for Colom­bia’s democ­racy be­cause it does not go far enough in pun­ish­ing rebels who com­mit­ted atroc­i­ties.

UN­LIKELY EN­COUNTER

He re­quested a meet­ing with the FARC lead­er­ship to dis­cuss his con­cerns, an en­counter that seemed un­likely.

“Uribe gov­erned badly, cor­rupted and bled Colom­bia dur­ing eight years and never wanted peace. He wanted to de­feat the FARC, but he couldn’t,” FARC com­man­der Pablo Cata­tumbo, one of the rebel com­man­ders in Bo­gota, wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count.

Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos has made clear that there is no more room for ne­go­ti­a­tion. In a joint gov­ern­ment-FARC state­ment on Tues­day, ne­go­tia­tors said they were still work­ing on the pro­ce­dures that would be used for rat­i­fi­ca­tion in congress, where the gov­ern­ment coali­tion has a solid ma­jor­ity. Uribe had been push­ing for an­other ref­er­en­dum, which he ex­pressed con­fi­dence would again vote down the ac­cord.

The stand-off comes amid con­cerns that a del­i­cate cease­fire could un­ravel un­less im­ple­men­ta­tion be­gins soon. Last week, two sus­pected FARC fight­ers were killed in com­bat with se­cu­rity forces in a con­fus­ing in­ci­dent now be­ing re­viewed by United Na­tions mon­i­tors.

The FARC is also an­gry over the killings of sev­eral land re­form ac­tivists and hu­man rights de­fend­ers, three over the past week­end. San­tos on Tues­day con­vened a meet­ing with top of­fi­cials and the UN hu­man-rights en­voy in Colom­bia to dis­cuss the killings.

The re­cent mur­ders “are pal­pa­ble, dra­matic ev­i­dence of the risks and un­cer­tainty that ex­ist around the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the peace ac­cord”, San­tos said af­ter the meet­ing.

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