Colom­bia, rebels sign re­vised peace ac­cord

Deal will be sent to law­mak­ers with­out a pub­lic vote

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Joshua Good­man and Alba Tobella

BO­GOTA, Colom­bia — Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos signed a re­vised peace agree­ment with the coun­try’s largest rebel move­ment Thurs­day, mak­ing a sec­ond at­tempt within months to end a half-cen­tury of hos­til­i­ties.

San­tos and Ro­drigo Lon­dono, leader of the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, signed the 310page ac­cord at Bo­gota’s his­toric Colon Theater — nearly two months af­ter the orig­i­nal deal was re­jected in a ref­er­en­dum.

Af­ter sign­ing with a pen crafted from the shell of an as­sault ri­fle bul­let, they clasped hands to shouts of “Yes we could!”

Thurs­day’s hastily or­ga­nized cer­e­mony was far more mod­est and somber than the one in Septem­ber, in the colo­nial city of Carta­gena, where the two men signed an ac­cord in front of an au­di­ence of for­eign lead­ers and United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-Moon, all of whom were dressed in white to sym­bol­ize peace.

San­tos looked and sounded tired af­ter a two-month political roller coaster that saw him rise from the hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat to win this year’s No­bel Peace Prize.

This time the deal will be sent to Congress with­out a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum.

He tried to in­ject a dose of op­ti­mism about the hob­bled ac­cord whose out­look for im­ple­men­ta­tion is shrouded in un­cer­tainty.

“In 150 days — only 150 days — all of the FARC’s weapons will be in the hands of the United Na­tions,” he said dur­ing the only part of his speech that drew ap­plause from the au­di­ence of a few hun­dred lo­cal politi­cians and of­fi­cials.

Lon­dono used his ad­dress to call for a tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment to en­sure the ac­cord is ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented, a sug­ges­tion de­nounced by the op­po­si­tion as a veiled at­tempt to ex­tend San­tos’ ten­ure past elec­tions in 2018, when he’ll be con­sti­tu­tion­ally banned from com­pet­ing.

The rebel leader also con­grat­u­lated Don­ald Trump on his vic­tory and called on the pres­i­den­t­elect to con­tinue strong U.S. sup­port for Colom­bia on its path to peace.

“Our only weapons as Colom­bians should be our words,” said Lon­dono, bet­ter known by his alias Ti­mochenko, in a 15-minute speech. “We are putting a de­fin­i­tive end to war to con­front in a civ­i­lized man­ner our contradictions.”

The deal in­tro­duces some 50 changes in­tended to as­suage crit­ics led by for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe. They range from a pro­hi­bi­tion on for­eign mag­is­trates judg­ing crimes by the FARC or gov­ern­ment to a commitment from the in­sur­gents to for­feit as­sets, some amassed through drug traf­fick­ing, to help com­pen­sate vic­tims.

But the FARC wouldn’t go along with the op­po­si­tion’s strong­est de­mands — jail sen­tences for rebel lead­ers who com­mit­ted atroc­i­ties and stricter lim­its on their future par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics.

Mem­bers of Uribe’s political party are threat­en­ing protests against what they con­sider a “blow to democ­racy.”

They also are de­mand­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum. Short- ly af­ter Thurs­day’s cer­e­mony, San­tos de­liv­ered the ac­cord to congress, where a solid pro-peace ma­jor­ity is ex­pected to rat­ify it as early as next week.

“I ask pub­lic opin­ion to re­flect on what this means for the future of the coun­try,” Uribe said on the Sen­ate floor Thurs­day, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the fact that FARC lead­ers will be al­lowed to fill spe­cially-re­served seats in congress be­fore com­plet­ing any sen­tences handed down by spe­cial peace tri­bunals.

The lack of broad sup­port for the ac­cord will make the al­ready-steep chal­lenge of im­ple­ment­ing it even tougher.

Colom­bians loathe the FARC for crimes such as kid­nap­pings and drug traf­fick­ing.

En­sur­ing that the 8,000plus fight­ers don’t wind up join­ing crim­i­nal gangs ram­pant through­out the coun­try, or the much-smaller National Lib­er­a­tion Army, will also test the state’s abil­ity to make its pres­ence felt in tra­di­tion­ally ne­glected ru­ral ar­eas at a time of fi­nan­cial stress trig­gered by low oil prices.

There’s also a risk that peace could trig­ger more blood­shed, as it did af­ter a pre­vi­ous peace process with the FARC in the 1980s when thou­sands of for­mer guer­ril­las, labor ac­tivists and com­mu­nist mil­i­tants were gunned down by rightwing mili­tias, some­times in col­lab­o­ra­tion with state agents.

There have been 70 mur­ders this year, ac­cord­ing to Bo­gota-based We Are De­fend­ers, more than in all of 2014 and 2015.

Once signed, San­tos will in­tro­duce the ac­cord to congress, where a solid ma­jor­ity in sup­port of peace is ex­pected to rat­ify it as early as next week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.