A second crack at peace in Colombia

Rapid renegotiation of deal is testimony to the determination of both government and Farc to end the war

 

The shock referendum rejection by Colombian voters in October of a peace deal between their government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) has been seen as the country’s Brexit moment. Unlike Brexit, however, the problem has been “put right” within a matter of weeks by both parties to the deal, and a new agreement will be signed today in Bogota. The 50-year conflict has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions .

The new deal will then go to parliament for almost certain ratification – there will be no second referendum, to the dismay of many of its original and continuing critics, like former rightwing President Alvaro Uribe.

The rapid renegotiation, testimony to the determination of both government and Farc to end the war, has made marginal changes to the text. But crucially it does not address Uribe’s main complaint that Farc leaders, like co-signatory with Santos, Rodrigo Londono, will be able to stand for election.

“The reason for all peace processes in the world is precisely so that guerrillas leave their arms and can participate in politics legally,” President Juan Manuel Santos notes, echoing words that could, and probably were, used to justify our own Belfast agreement’s provisions.

Nor does the agreement specify the jail time for ex-fighters that the right is demanding, but better defines the kinds of alternative punishment, including restriction to rural areas, that some will face under a special tribunal that will prosecute war crimes. Farc has also now committed to declaring and handing over all their assets, which will be used to pay for reparations to victims.

“This new accord possibly won’t satisfy everybody, but that’s what happens in peace accords. There are always critical voices; it is understandable and respectable,” Santos argues, warning that another referendum could split the country and put in danger the bilateral ceasefire. The first agreement took four years of talks in Havana where talks to amend it were also held. Both are underwritten by strong political and promised economic support from the EU and US.

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