- Title: Colombia braces for an unexpected twist to its search for peace
- Date: 4th October 2016
- Summary: BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (OCTOBER 2, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF YES SUPPORTERS CRYING YES SUPPORTERS WITH COLOMBIAN FLAG
- Embargoed: 19th October 2016 01:41
- Keywords: plebiscite Santos FARC Cuba peace negotiations
- Location: BOGOTA + CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA / HAVANA, CUBA
- City: BOGOTA + CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA / HAVANA, CUBA
- Country: Colombia
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Military Conflicts
- Reuters ID: LVA00352GBP6V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A peace deal with Colombia's government and Marxist guerrillas was in limbo on Monday (October 03) with supporters of the agreement left trying to revive a plan to end their 52-year war after voters rejected the hard-negotiated deal as too lenient on the rebels in a shock referendum result that plunged the nation into uncertainty.
"No" voters, who narrowly won Sunday's (October 02) plebiscite, want assurances the rebels will hand in cash from drugs, spend time in jail, and earn their political future at the ballot box rather than get guaranteed, unelected seats in Congress.
Any renegotiated peace accord now seems to depend on whether the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) could accept tougher sanctions against them.
Members of the opposition, headed by powerful former president Alvaro Uribe, will meet with the government to try and salvage the accord.
Some critics of the negotiated deal had argued the rebels should serve jail terms and never be permitted to enter politics.
"Now we need to sit down and explore how we can improve, to correct these agreements. Our proposal is to contribute to a national agreement to move forward on this path. We have proposed to the government the appointment of some people with whom we can sit down and talk to, to look at the basis of what a national agreement should be that unites all Colombians, which guarantees there will be no more violence, so that the FARC be held economically responsible. Any accord needs to take into account the economic possibilities that the country has today," said head of the no campaign, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Both President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, the top FARC commander better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, put a brave face on the referendum setback after four years of negotiations in Havana between their teams.
They vowed to maintain a ceasefire and keep working together, even though that could be another lengthy and complicated process.
"The Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Colombia of the people reaffirm before Colombia and the world that its guerrillas across the country will uphold the bilateral ceasefire and indefinitely as a necessary measure to the victims of the conflict and to respect what has been agreed with the national government," said Timochenko.
Bogota's chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle is awaiting his fate after his four years of negotiations with the FARC failed at the ballot box.
"The errors that we have made are solely my responsibility. I assume political responsibility. As a result I have come to tell the president that my position as head negotiator is at his disposal because I do not want to be an obstacle to what happens next," he said.
For many Colombians eagerly awaiting the next chapter of their journey to peace, there are many questions remaining as to the path ahead.
"We do not know how this negotiation will be carried out, who will carry it out. There is no institutional mechanism for it. It is a purely political negotiation, a political dialogue that must be conducted according to the judgment of the president and which must result in a list of demands for change set out by those in opposition to the agreement. I call it a parallel agreement because it will end up having to go to the negotiating table in Havana, which will probably be open again so that the FARC consider these demands," said conflict analyst, Jorge Restrepo.
Latin America's longest conflict has killed 220,000 people, displaced millions and brought atrocities on all sides.
The peace accord offered the possibility that rebel fighters would hand in their weapons to the United Nations, confess their crimes and form a political party rooted in their Marxist ideology.
The FARC, which began as a peasant revolt in 1964, would have been able to compete in the 2018 presidential and legislative elections and have 10 unelected congressional seats guaranteed through 2026.
Regions still riven by the conflict, including poor areas along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, voted resoundingly in favour of the deal, but formerly violent interior areas pacified during the Uribe presidency largely backed the "No" camp.
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