Colombian president wins Nobel Prize
Peace award comes 5 days after voters reject peace deal
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end Latin America’s longestrunning armed conflict, an honor that came just five days after voters dealt him a stunning blow by rejecting a peace deal with leftist rebels.
By winning the Nobel, Santos, 65, got a big boost in his efforts to save the agreement seeking to end Colombia’s half-century conflict.
The prize, announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, puts pressure on both conservative critics and leftist rebels to find a way forward after the defeat of the accord in a referendum Sunday.
Santos dedicated the prize to his fellow Colombi- ans, especially the victims of the conflict, saying it would redouble his commitment to end hostilities that left 220,000 dead and almost 8 million displaced.
“I invite everyone to bring together our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavor so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia,” Santos said alongside his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez, in his first public appearance since winning the Nobel.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Santos for his “resolute” attempts to stop a civil war. But in a departure from its tradition of honoring both sides of a peace process, the fivemember committee conspicuously left out Santos’ counterpart, rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, from the honor.
Santos and Londono — leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by its Spanish acronym FARC — signed a peace deal last month to end the conflict after more than four years of negotia- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez meet the press after Santos was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. tions in Cuba.
But Sunday, voters rejected the deal by the narrowest of margins — less than half a percentage point — over concerns that the rebels, who are widely loathed by Colombians for committing atrocities, were getting a sweetheart deal.
Under the accord, rebels who turn over their weapons and confess their crimes would be spared jail, and the group would be reserved seats in congress to help smooth its transition to a political movement.
“The referendum was not a vote for or against peace,” the Nobel commit- tee said Friday, insisting the peace process wasn’t dead. “What the ‘No’ side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.”
President Barack Obama was among the chorus of international congratulations, saying the Nobel Committee sent “a message that in a world of conflict, the pursuit of peace must be supported and encouraged.”
Santos, the Harvard-educated scion of one of Colombia’s wealthiest families, is an unlikely peacemaker. As defense minister a decade ago, he was responsible for some of the biggest military setbacks for the rebels. Those included a 2008 cross-border raid into Ecuador that took out a top rebel commander and the stealth rescue of three Americans held captive by the rebels for more than five years.
Nobel Committee Secretary Olav Njolstad said there was “broad consensus” on picking Santos as this year’s laureate — the first time the peace prize has gone to Latin America since 1992, when Guatemalan indigenous rights activist Rigoberta Menchu won. It is Colombia’s second Nobel honor after novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the prize for literature in 1982.
Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, reacted coolly to the award on Twitter by saying “the only prize to which we aspire” is one of social justice for Colombia, without far-right militias, retaliation or lies.
He later congratulated Santos, as well as Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile, which helped facilitate the talks.
Santos also was congratulated by former President Alvaro Uribe, whose U.S.-backed military offensive is widely credited with forcing the FARC into negotiations. Uribe, a hardline conservative, led the “No” campaign against the peace deal.
“I hope it leads to a change in the accords that are damaging for our democracy,” he said on Twitter about the prize.
A record 376 candidates were nominated for this year’s award, which carries a prize of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $930,000).
Last year’s peace prize went to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet for its efforts to build a pluralistic democracy.
The 2016 Nobel Prize announcements continue with the economics prize Monday and literature Thursday.