Colom­bia signs con­tested new peace deal with FARC

Op­po­si­tion against re­drafted ver­sion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BOGOTA:

Colom­bia’s gov­ern­ment and FARC rebels signed a con­tro­ver­sial re­vised peace ac­cord Thurs­day to end their half-cen­tury con­flict, set to be rat­i­fied in Con­gress de­spite bit­ter op­po­si­tion. Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos and guer­rilla leader Ro­drigo “Ti­mochenko” Lon­dono signed the new deal with a pen made from a spent bul­let, in a lowkey cer­e­mony in the cap­i­tal Bogota.

The orig­i­nal deal - signed with great fan­fare in Septem­ber - was re­jected by vot­ers in a ref­er­en­dum last month, a shock up­set that sent ne­go­tia­tors back to the draw­ing board. The new plan by­passes a vote by the Colom­bian peo­ple, against bit­ter op­po­si­tion from crit­ics. They say the re­vi­sions are only cos­metic and will still grant im­punity for war crimes com­mit­ted by the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia (FARC).

San­tos, who won this year’s No­bel Peace Prize for his ef­forts to end the con­flict, said the new deal was bet­ter than the orig­i­nal. “It in­cludes the hopes and ob­ser­va­tions of the vast ma­jor­ity of Colom­bians,” he said af­ter sign­ing it. “We all know in our souls that the cost of the armed con­flict is too high.”

Frag­ile Cease­fire

The deal was im­me­di­ately sent to Con­gress, where it is ex­pected to pass af­ter be­ing de­bated next week. San­tos and his al­lies hold a ma­jor­ity in the leg­is­la­ture. The gov­ern­ment and FARC both say they are un­der pres­sure for fear that their frag­ile cease­fire could break down. A re­cent wave of al­leged as­sas­si­na­tions in con­flict zones has added to calls to seal a deal fast. But an af­ter­math of dis­cord and un­cer­tainty ap­pears likely as op­po­nents promised to keep re­sist­ing the peace plan, in­clud­ing with street protests.

“The country has spo­ken. It has said, ‘Yes to peace, but with­out im­punity,’” said top op­po­nent Al­varo Uribe, a con­ser­va­tive ex-pres­i­dent and se­na­tor. “What we have here re­mains to­tal im­punity,” he told RCN tele­vi­sion. Speak­ing later in the Se­nate, he called for an­other ref­er­en­dum on some of the con­tested “ba­sic is­sues” in the deal.

Op­po­si­tion Ob­jec­tions

The gov­ern­ment and FARC ne­go­tia­tors’ re­drafted ver­sion of the deal in­cludes con­ces­sions from the rebels on is­sues such as repa­ra­tions for victims. But Uribe com­plains it still ig­nores key de­mands, no­tably on pun­ish­ing FARC lead­ers for the killings and kid­nap­pings blamed on the group. Un­der the deal, the Marx­ist rebels would dis­arm and be­come a po­lit­i­cal party. The deal al­lows non-cus­to­dial sen­tences for con­victed FARC mem­bers.

Uribe and his al­lies de­mand tougher pun­ish­ments and say rebel lead­ers guilty of war crimes should not be al­lowed to run for of­fice be­fore com­plet­ing their sen­tences. A sur­vey by poll­ster Da­texco pub­lished on Wed­nes­day found that 58 per­cent of peo­ple want more re­vi­sions to the deal.

By­pass­ing Vot­ers

Con­gress will open a live tele­vised de­bate on the deal from next Tues­day. On the streets of Bogota, passerby Over­nis Diaz wel­comed the agree­ment. “We have lived through a war of more than 50 years. We want no more blood­shed,” he said. But an­other lo­cal, Dayanna Gil, said: “It should be ap­proved through a pop­u­lar vote... We should all have a say.”

Dis­ar­ma­ment in Months

San­tos said that five days af­ter the deal is ap­proved, the FARC rebels will be­gin gath­er­ing in de­mo­bi­liza­tion zones and will hand over their weapons to the United Na­tions within five months. UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon hailed Thurs­day’s deal. “The vi­o­lent in­ci­dents that have taken place re­cently in con­flict-af­fected ar­eas un­der­score the rel­e­vance of many of the com­mit­ments con­tained in the agree­ment and the ur­gency of putting them into ef­fect,” his spokesman said in a state­ment. — AFP

BOGOTA: Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos (left) and the head of the FARC guer­rilla Ti­moleon Jimenez shake hands dur­ing the sec­ond sign­ing of the his­toric peace agree­ment at the Colon The­ater on Thurs­day. —AFP

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