Colombian Referendum Vote Rejects FARC Peace Deal

Colombia Votes On Peace Accord With FARC

Colombia held a public referendum on Sunday to vote on the peace agreement forged between the Colombian national government and the former rebel group FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The citizens of Colombia voted against the peace deal, which took four years to draft and sign.

The final result on Colombia’s single-issue ballot saw 50.22 percent of voters saying “no” to the deal, according to the BBC. Approximately, 49.78 percent of participants voted “yes.” A total of 6,430,708 ballots were cast and voter turnout was 25 percent, the Washington Post Reports. However, Hurricane Matthew caused heavy rain to hit Colombia’s coast. The weather prevented some voters from getting to the polls.

The agreement was brokered and signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC’s leader Timoleon Jiminez. It had the support of the president as well as politicians both in Colombia and across the world, including United States Secretary of State John Kerry. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed support for the peace deal.

Opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the vote suggested that the result would swing towards yes, according to The Guardian, and the agreement would be signed comfortably. However, concerns were raised by those campaigning for a vote against the agreement.

The “no” campaign was not opposed to peace, but to specific sections of the agreement, which the leader of the campaign, former President Uribe told Al Jazeera, need to be corrected.

Criticism of the deal suggested that Colombia was not doing enough to punish FARC for past crimes. Estimates suggest 220,000 people died over the course of the conflict. There are also questions regarding human rights abuses, the enlistment of child soldiers, and money made from trafficking cocaine.

[Image By Mario Tama/Getty Images]

The agreement called for reconciliation and forgiveness. Fighters who surrendered to U.N.-sponsored camps and confessed to war crimes would not go to jail. Instead, they would face eight years of “effective restrictions of liberty.”

In addition to no jail time, the agreement also said that the government would provide the former rebels with a monthly stipend. Former FARC members interested in starting a business would receive financial help from the government.

The deal would also legitimize the group’s status as a political party. FARC would be provided 10 seats to them in Congress after they turned over all weapons. These seats would be guaranteed in the elections held in both 2018 and 2022

Still, according to CNN, the government announced that FARC would pay reparations. A figure was not released estimating how much each victim would receive from the group.

FARC and the Colombian national government have been at war for over five decades. FARC’s leadership expressed its feelings on the vote with a statement:

“With today’s result, we know that our goal as a political movement is even more grand and strong. The FARC maintains the will of peace and reiterates its disposition to only use words as a weapon for constructing the future.”

Statements made by President Santos before the vote suggested that there would be no back up plan should the referendum fail to pass. He also intimated that the country would return to war if Colombia voted no.

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire on August 29, which remains in place.

Still, both sides report being committed to peace. The Guardian reports, in a televised speech delivered after the vote, President Santos said, “I will not give up. I will continue seeking peace until the last day of my presidency.”

Going forward, President Santos said he plans to maintain the bilateral ceasefire brokered between the two groups. He noted the vote will not affect the nation’s stability. Negotiators representing the Colombian government will travel to Cuba to work out the next steps with FARC leaders.

[Featured Image By Mario Tama/Getty Images]