Colom­bia em­barks on peace chal­lenge BO­GOTA:

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter push­ing a re­vised peace deal with the FARC rebel group through Congress, Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos got down to a far big­ger chal­lenge Thurs­day: im­ple­ment­ing it. The lower house’s unan­i­mous vote in fa­vor of the deal set off a count­down to end a con­flict that has burned for over half a cen­tury and killed more than 260,000 peo­ple.

“To­day we can say the war has of­fi­cially ended,” San­tos said in a speech. “We all have to con­tinue mak­ing sac­ri­fices, but I hope we will do so to­gether.” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Juan Fer­nando Cristo told a news con­fer­ence that Colom­bia now faces “an enor­mous chal­lenge” to im­ple­ment the ac­cord. Within five days, the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, or FARC, must be­gin de­mo­bi­liz­ing and sur­ren­der­ing their weapons. Un­der the deal, the process must be com­plete within six months. The FARC will re­launch as a po­lit­i­cal party. The next step, Cristo said, would be to present Congress with an amnesty for FARC mem­bers-the most con­tested part of the ac­cord.

San­tos, who won this year’s No­bel Peace Prize, said “DDay be­gins” on Thurs­day. The del­i­cate tran­si­tion to peace will take place amid bit­ter op­po­si­tion to the deal, which San­tos’s ri­vals say is too soft on the left­ist guer­ril­las. Vot­ers re­jected an ear­lier ver­sion of the deal in a ref­er­en­dum last month. That sent peace ne­go­tia­tors back to the draw­ing board af­ter nearly four years of talks. Rather than risk a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, the gov­ern­ment and rebels de­cided to have the re­vised deal rat­i­fied in Congress. Op­po­nents say the new ver­sion in­cludes only to­ken changes. The deal passed unan­i­mously in both houses of Congress, where San­tos has a ma­jor­ity. His top op­po­nent, for­mer pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe, led a walk­out by his right-wing party, the Demo­cratic Cen­ter.

“How is the Congress go­ing to ap­prove what the Colom­bian peo­ple re­jected?” Os­car Ivan Zu­loaga, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for Uribe’s party, said dur­ing the House de­bate. Uribe and his al­lies ar­gue the deal grants im­punity to rebels guilty of war crimes, giv­ing them seats in Congress rather than send­ing them to jail. — AFP

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