A referendum over a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was held on Monday, where voters rejected the hard-negotiated peace deal that could have marked the end of the 52-year conflict that consumed 220,000 lives. Voters cited that the deal was too lenient, with former president Alvaro Uribe stating that the rebels should serve prison terms and be barred from entering politics.
In spite of the political defeat, President Juan Manuel Santos reassured those who backed his four-year peace negotiation with FARC in Cuba that an agreement will eventually be reached.
“I will not give up, I will keep seeking peace until the last minute of my term”, he said moments after losing Sunday’s vote to those who want a re-negotiation of the deal or a complete pacification of FARC on the battlefield.
Putting on a brave face, Santos said he will be meeting with all political parties on Monday and will send lead government peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle back to Havana to resume the process.
Top FARC Commander Rodrigo Londono, also known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, also emphasized that the rebels will remain committed to becoming a peaceful political party.
“The FARC reiterates its disposition to use only words as a weapon to build toward the future”, Timochenko said after the result. “Count on us, peace will triumph”.
Santos, who was not legally bound to hold a referendum, said there were no backup plans for the failure of the peace vote, but is now prepared to consider other options.
Despite the ‘no’ vote, many, including those who chose to reject the peace deal, were surprised by the result of the plebiscite. Sociologist Mabel Castano, who was among the voters who chose ‘no’, said he “never thought this could happen” and that he hopes ” the government, the opposition, and the FARC come up with something intelligent that includes us all”.
The peace accord, which was reached last month and signed a week ago, offered the possibility that rebel fighters would surrender their weapons to the UN, acknowledge their crimes, and form a political party. They would have consequently been able to compete in the 2018 presidential and legislative elections.