No­bel Prize boosts Colom­bian leader’s pur­suit of peace

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Joshua Good­man and Karl Rit­ter

BO­GOTA, COLOM­BIA >> By win­ning the No­bel Peace Prize, Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos got a big boost Fri­day in his ef­forts to save an 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 shock­ing de­feat of the ac­cord in an Oct. 2 ref­er­en­dum.

San­tos ded­i­cated the prize to his fel­low Colom­bians, es­pe­cially the vic­tims of the bloody 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 in his first public ap­pear­ance af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied he had won in a pre-dawn phone call from their son.

Colom­bians are split on their sup­port for the peace deal.

Some see it as the best chance in a gen­er­a­tion to halt the con­flict with the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, or FARC; oth­ers are out­raged that rebels be­hind scores of atroc­i­ties, from kid­nap­pings to at­tacks on civil­ian tar­gets, prob­a­bly will never spend a day in prison and in­stead be re­served seats in congress to smooth their tran­si­tion into a po­lit­i­cal move­ment.

The ac­cord’s de­feat in the ref­er­en­dum by the nar­row­est of mar­gins — less than half a per­cent­age point — hu­mil­i­ated San­tos, es­pe­cially since polls had pre­dicted it would pass by an al­most 2-1 mar­gin. He had signed the deal with the FARC just six days ear­lier in front of world lead­ers.

Now he’s scram­bling to save the ac­cord. This week, he dis­patched ne­go­tia­tors to Cuba, to see if the FARC will make ad­di­tional con­ces­sions, and presided over meet­ings with op­po­nents led by his for­mer ally turned archri­val: ex-Pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe.

Uribe, who in­flamed wide­spread ha­tred of the rebels by warn­ing that the peace deal would take Colom­bia down the path of com­mu­nist Cuba, emerged as the big vic­tor in the ref­er­en­dum and is push­ing for harsher pun­ish­ment for the FARC.

But he’s been con­cil­ia­tory so far, and even sent San­tos a con­grat­u­la­tion of sorts on win­ning the No­bel.

“I hope it leads to a change in the ac­cords that are dam­ag­ing for our democ­racy,” Uribe said in a mes­sage on Twit­ter.

No­body knows how the im­passe will end but most an­a­lysts agree that a bi­lat­eral cease-fire al­ready in place can’t en­dure for too long with­out res­o­lu­tion. Amid such un­cer­tainty, the No­bel prize gives some oxy­gen to San­tos’ ef­forts, although how much is un­known.

In Bo­gota’s Plaza Bo­li­var, where thou­sands gath­ered Wed­nes­day in the big­gest street demon­stra­tion in years to de­mand the peace deal be saved, an ac­tivist dis­trib­uted white daisies sym­bol­iz­ing peace. A small group camped in the plaza since then cel­e­brated with shouts of “Peace deal now!” and “Colom­bia wants peace!”

“Even though Uribe won the vote, I think San­tos has some ad­van­tage right now,” said Adam Isac­son, an an­a­lyst at the Wash­ing­ton Of­fice on Latin Amer­ica who was in Colom­bia for the ref­er­en­dum.

No­bel com­mit­tee sec­re­tary Olav Njoel­stad said there was “broad con­sen­sus” on choos­ing San­tos. It was 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 beloved nov­el­ist Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez won for lit­er­a­ture in 1982.

But in a de­par­ture from its tra­di­tion of hon­or­ing both sides of a peace process, the five-mem­ber com­mit­tee con­spic­u­ously left out San­tos’ coun­ter­part, rebel leader Ro­drigo Lon­dono, from the honor, a move that could fur­ther strengthen San­tos’ hand in wrest­ing con­ces­sions from the rebels.

“We’re not go­ing to de­stroy what we’ve de­signed, and that has re­ceived so much in­ter­na­tional praise,” the FARC’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Ivan Mar­quez said from Ha­vana upon learn­ing of San­tos’ No­bel.

The rebels and the govern­ment on Fri­day in­vited the United Na­tions and re­gional govern­ment to send ob­servers to mon­i­tor the cease-fire al­ready in place

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Colom­bia’s Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos speaks to sup­port­ers of the peace deal he signed with rebels of the Revo­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, FARC, at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Bo­gota, Colom­bia, on Fri­day, be­hind a sculp­ture of a white dove do­nated by Colom­bian artist Fer­nando Botero. San­tos won the No­bel Peace Prize Fri­day, just days af­ter vot­ers nar­rowly re­jected a peace deal.

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