Colom­bian pres­i­dent wins No­bel Prize

Peace award comes 5 days af­ter vot­ers re­ject peace deal

Baltimore Sun - - HURRICANE MATTHEW - By Karl Rit­ter and Joshua Good­man The Los An­ge­les Times con­trib­uted.

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.

LEONARDO MUNOZ/EPA

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