Colom­bians re­ject peace deal with rebels

> Shock ref­er­en­dum re­sult plunges na­tion into un­cer­tainty

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BO­GOTA: Colom­bians nar­rowly re­jected a peace deal with Marx­ist gueril­las in a ref­er­en­dum yes­ter­day, plung­ing the na­tion into un­cer­tainty and dash­ing Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos’ painstak­ingly ne­go­ti­ated plan to end the 52-year war.

The sur­prise vic­tory for the “no” camp poured cold water on in­ter­na­tional joy, from the White House to the Vat­i­can, at what had seemed to be the end of the long­est-run­ning con­flict in the Amer­i­cas.

The “no” camp won by 50.21% to 49.78%. Voter turnout was only 37%, per­haps partly ow­ing to tor­ren­tial rain through the coun­try.

Both sides in the war im­me­di­ately sought to re­as­sure the world they would try to re­vive their peace plan.

San­tos, 65, said a cease­fire al­ready ne­go­ti­ated would re­main in place.

He vowed to sit down to­day with the vic­to­ri­ous “no” camp to dis­cuss the way for­ward, and send his chief ne­go­tia­tor back to Cuba to meet with FARC rebel lead­ers.

“I will not give up, I will keep seek­ing peace un­til the last day of my term be­cause that is the way to leave a bet­ter na­tion for our chil­dren,” said San­tos, who can­not seek re­elec­tion when his sec­ond term ends in Au­gust 2018.

The com­man­der of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, or FARC, known by his nom de guerre, Ti­mochenko, gave a sim­i­lar mes­sage from Ha­vana, where peace ne­go­ti­a­tions have taken place over the last four years.

“The FARC re­it­er­ates its dis­po­si­tion to use only words as a weapon to build to­wards the fu­ture,” said Ti­mochenko, whose real name is Ro­drigo Lon­dono.

“To the Colom­bian peo­ple who dream of peace, count on us, peace will tri­umph.”

San­tos re­cently said a “no” vote would mean a re­turn to war, and opin­ion polls had pre­dicted he would win com­fort­ably.

Tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive Colom­bian vot­ers, in favour of peace in prin­ci­ple but un­happy at per­ceived soft treat­ment for the gueril­las, con­founded those fore­casts.

Op­po­nents of the pact be­lieved it was too le­nient on the FARC rebels by al­low­ing them to re-en­ter so­ci­ety, form a po­lit­i­cal party and es­cape jail sen­tences.

“I voted no. I don’t want to teach my chil­dren that ev­ery­thing can be for­given,” Bo­gota en­gi­neer Ale­jan­dro Jaramillo said.

Op­po­nents want a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the deal with rebel lead­ers serv­ing jail time and re­ceiv­ing no free seats in Congress.

“We all want peace, no one wants vi­o­lence,” said in­flu­en­tial for­mer pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe who led the “No” cam­paign.

“We in­sist on cor­rec­tions so there is re­spect for the con­sti­tu­tion. We want to con­trib­ute to a na­tional ac­cord and be heard.” – Reuters

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