Colom­bia’s congress rat­i­fies peace ac­cord with rebels

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

BO­GOTA, COLOM­BIA >> Af­ter five decades of war, more than four years of ne­go­ti­a­tions and two sign­ing cer­e­monies, Colom­bia’s congress late Wednesday for­mally rat­i­fied a peace agree­ment al­low­ing leftist rebels to en­ter pol­i­tics.

The 310-page re­vised ac­cord was ap­proved unan­i­mously by the lower house, which voted a day af­ter the Se­nate ap­proved the same text 75-0 fol­low­ing a protest walk­out by the op­po­si­tion led by for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe.

The ac­cord in­tro­duces some 50 changes in­tended to as­suage crit­ics who led a cam­paign that saw Colom­bians nar­rowly re­ject the orig­i­nal ac­cord in a ref­er­en­dum last month. Re­vi­sions range from a pro­hi­bi­tion on for­eign mag­is­trates judg­ing al­leged crimes by gov­ern­ment troops or by the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia to a com­mit­ment from the rebels to for­feit as­sets, some amassed through drug traf­fick­ing, to help com­pen­sate their vic­tims.

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

“There needs to be a bal­ance be­tween peace and jus­tice, but in this agree­ment there’s com­plete im­punity,” Uribe, now a se­na­tor, said dur­ing Tues­day’s heated de­bate. Other sen­a­tors ac­cused him of stand­ing in the way of a peace deal that he pur­sued with the FARC as pres­i­dent in 2002-10.

Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos said rat­i­fi­ca­tion will set in mo­tion the start of a six-month process in which the FARC’s 8,000-plus guer­ril­las will con­cen­trate in some 20 ru­ral ar­eas and turn over their weapons to United Na­tions mon­i­tors.

“To­mor­row a new era be­gins,” San­tos said Tues­day, cel­e­brat­ing the Se­nate’s en­dorse­ment and the ex­pected ap­proval by the lower house.

But the rebels in­sist that their troops won’t start de­mo­bi­liz­ing un­til law­mak­ers pass an amnesty law free­ing some 2,000 rebels in jail.

“D-Day starts af­ter the first ac­tions are im­ple­mented,” the rebel leader “Pas­tor Alape,” a mem­ber of the FARC’s 10-mem­ber sec­re­tar­iat, told for­eign jour­nal­ists last week af­ter the new ac­cord was signed. “The pres­i­dent un­for­tu­nately has been demon­strat­ing an at­ti­tude that cre­ates con­fu­sion in the coun­try.”


Op­po­nents of peace agree­ments be­tween rebels of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, FARC, with the gov­ern­ment gather out­side the congress in Bo­gota, Colom­bia.

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