Colombia has been ravaged by bloody conflict for 52 years. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group and the Colombian government have been at war since the 1960s. The struggle between the FARC and the Colombian government has led to hundreds of thousands of casualties. Accusations of humans rights violations have also been leveled against both factions involved. The general desire of the Columbian public has been to end the fighting and establish lasting political stability and peace in their country.
Columbia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, and FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (also known as by the alias Timochenko), began the talks with the hopes of achieving the long-awaited peace. The final goal of both sides is the demilitarization of the FARC and transition into a political party. The negotiations were held in secret for four years under the supervision of the Cuban and Norwegian governments. The talks ended last month with an agreement that both parties signed off on. With the final terms of the deal hammered out by the FARC leaders and the Colombian government, the Colombian people got to have their voices heard in the referendum that took place October 2. President Santos campaigned in favor of the peace deal but a vocal opposition has arisen. The former president Alavaro Uribe has become the figurehead of the vote “no” campaign. Several reasons have been cited in against the deal by the opposition campaign. Critics of the deal have argued that the crimes committed by FARC will go unpunished. For all the families who have been affected by the kidnapping, extortion, child conscription, and the indiscriminate use of landmines and mortar fire, the peace agreement fails to deliver proper justice. The FARC group would not only be granted amnesty for its various war crimes but it will also receive 10 congressional seats out of the 268 seats available until 2026.
In addition to worries about the various concessions made by the Santos administration, many worry over the uncertain future afforded by a ratification of the agreement. The demilitarization of the FARC is no guarantee of peace for those living in rural Columbia. Other left-wing insurgent groups such as the ELN have begun to take land in former FARC strongholds. Right-wing paramilitary groups might also terrorize Columbia as well as spawn criminal organizations, similarly to countries like El Salvador after the end of its civil war. Economic concerns must also be taken into account. The peace deal commits the Colombian government to invest in rural areas where the FARC has had the most influence. The cost of the promised investment is estimated to be $31 billion, according to The Economist.
Regardless of all the worries over the deal, the majority of polls predicted a safe margin of victory for “yes”. Much to the surprise of all Colombian pollsters, the result of the referendum was 50.2% “no” to 49.8% “yes”. The implications of the “no” vote still remain unclear. The FARC and the Santos administration have agreed to continue the ceasefire until at least the end of the month. President Santo has commented on the vote and has stated his commitment to peace, “I won’t give up, I’ll continue the search for peace until the last moment of my mandate because that’s the way to leave a better country to our children.”. The FARC leader Timochenko has also expressed willingness to pursue peace. Whether these mutual feeling amounts to a future agreement or unravels into further conflict remains to be seen.