Colom­bian ac­cepts No­bel

Mean­while, ab­sent Dy­lan gets stand­ing ova­tion in Stock­holm

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Karl Ritter

stock­holm» Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos ac­cepted the No­bel Peace Prize on Satur­day, say­ing it helped his coun­try achieve the “im­pos­si­ble dream” of end­ing a half­cen­tury-long civil war.

A smil­ing San­tos re­ceived his No­bel diploma and gold medal at a cer­e­mony in Oslo for his ef­forts to end a con­flict that has killed 220,000 peo­ple and dis­placed 8 mil­lion.

“Ladies and gen­tle­men, there is one less war in the world, and it is the war in Colom­bia,” the 65-year-old head of state said, re­fer­ring to the his­toric peace deal this year with left­ist rebels from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia, or FARC.

San­tos used his ac­cep­tance speech to cel­e­brate the end of the long­est-run­ning con­flict in the Amer­i­cas, pay trib­ute to its vic­tims and call for a strat­egy shift in another, re­lated war — on drug traf­fick­ing world­wide.

Just a few years ago, imag­in­ing the end of the blood­shed in Colom­bia “seemed an im­pos­si­ble dream, and for good rea­son,” San­tos said, not­ing that very few Colom­bians could even re­mem­ber their coun­try at peace.

The ini­tial peace deal was nar­rowly re­jected by Colom­bian vot­ers in a shock ref­er­en­dum re­sult just days be­fore the No­bel Peace Prize an­nounce­ment in Oc­to­ber.

Many be­lieved that ruled out San­tos from win­ning this year’s prize, but the Nor­we­gian No­bel Com­mit­tee “saw things dif­fer­ently,” deputy chair­woman Berit Reiss-An­der­sen said.

“The peace process was in dan­ger of col­laps­ing and needed all the in­ter­na­tional sup­port it could get,” she said in her pre­sen­ta­tion speech.

A re­vised deal was ap­proved by Colom­bia’s Congress last week.

Sev­eral vic­tims of the con­flict at­tended the prize cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing In­grid Be­tan­court, who was held hostage by FARC for six years, and Leyner Pala­cios, who lost 32 rel­a­tives in­clud­ing his par­ents and three broth­ers in a FARC mor­tar at­tack.

“The FARC has asked for for­give­ness for this atroc­ity, and Leyner, who is now a com­mu­nity leader, has for­given them,” the pres­i­dent said. Pala­cios stood up to ap­plause from the crowd.

FARC lead­ers, who can­not travel be­cause they face in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rants by the U.S., were not in Oslo. A Span­ish lawyer who served as a chief ne­go­tia­tor for FARC rep­re­sented the rebel group at the cer­e­mony.

Colom­bians have re­acted to San­tos’ prize with muted emo­tion amid deep di­vi­sions over the peace deal. The vast ma­jor­ity didn’t bother to vote in Oc­to­ber’s ref­er­en­dum. For many Colom­bians in big cities, San­tos’ over­rid­ing fo­cus on end­ing a con­flict that had been wind­ing down for years has di­verted at­ten­tion from press­ing eco­nomic con­cerns.

San­tos’ speech made a ref­er­ence to fel­low No­bel lau­re­ate Bob Dy­lan, this year’s sur­prise win­ner of the lit­er­a­ture award, by cit­ing the lyrics of one of his most fa­mous songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

The pres­i­dent also used the No­bel podium to re­it­er­ate his call to “re­think” the war on drugs, “where Colom­bia has been the coun­try that has paid the high­est cost in deaths and sac­ri­fices.”

San­tos has ar­gued that the decades-old U.S.-pro­moted war on drugs has pro­duced enor­mous vi­o­lence and en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age in na­tions that sup­ply co­caine, and needs to be sup­planted by a global fo­cus on eas­ing laws pro­hibit­ing con­sump­tion of il­le­gal nar­cotics.

“It makes no sense to im­prison a peas­ant who grows mar­i­juana, when nowa­days, for ex­am­ple, its cul­ti­va­tion and use are le­gal in eight states of the United States,” he said.

The other No­bel Prizes were pre­sented at a sep­a­rate cer­e­mony in Stock­holm to the lau­re­ates in medicine, chem­istry, physics and eco­nomics. Dy­lan wasn’t there — he de­clined the in­vi­ta­tion, cit­ing other com­mit­ments. The crowd still gave Dy­lan a stand­ing ova­tion af­ter a Swedish Academy mem­ber praised his work in a speech. An awk­ward mo­ment en­sued as Amer­i­can singer-song­writer Patti Smith, per­form­ing Dy­lan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” forgot the lyrics mid­way through.

“I apol­o­gize. I’m sorry, I’m so ner­vous,” Smith said, ask­ing the orches­tra to start over, as the for­mally dressed au­di­ence com­forted her with gen­tle ap­plause.

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Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos, win­ner of the 2016 No­bel Peace Prize, waves from the bal­cony of the Grand Ho­tel in Oslo on Satur­day.

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