Voters in Colombia rejected a landmark peace deal with rebels in a referendum held on Sunday with 50.2% voting against giving free life to rebels
Not satisfied with government’s decision to pardon many of rebels from prosecution for crimes committed in the past, Colombians rejected the historic deal, defying the government.
The referendum result came within a week after government signed a peace accord, threw Colombia’s future into uncertainty.
Government and its interlocutors spent four years negotiating with Colombia’s largest rebel group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and agreed to ratify the deal through a referendum.
The plan –B of people to reject the peace accord shocked the Prime Minister
“I will not give in, and I will continue to seek peace to the last day of my term,” said the Colombian President Said President Juan Manuel Santos admitting defeat.
FARC chief Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez, vowed his side was also committed to continuing peace efforts. He said its ceasefire remained in force.
“The FARC deeply deplores that the destructive power of those who sow hatred and resentment has influenced the Colombian people’s opinion,” he said in Havana, Cuba, where the accord was negotiated.
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who spearheaded the campaign to vote against the agreement, asked the government to modify the peace accord and make corrections.
“FARC members found guilty of crimes must be barred from contesting in polls. They must serve time in prison for crimes committed and they must pay their illicit gains to victims,” Uribe said.
What is FARC
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc, after the initials in Spanish) are Colombia’s largest rebel group. Founded in 1964 as the armed wing of the Communist Party they follow a Marxist-Leninist ideology.
FARC’s founders were small farmers and land workers who had banded together to fight against the staggering levels of inequality in Colombia in 60’s.
Human rights groups have often accused the FARC of forcibly recruiting poor farmers and their children. Most of the FARC’s fighters are from poor, rural communities and include both men and women.