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Colombia referendum rejects peace deal with Farc guerrillas

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  • Colombia referendum rejects peace deal with Farc guerrillas

    Colombia referendum rejects peace deal with Farc guerrillas

    President Juan Manuel Santos fails to win approval as voters appear to balk at an agreement that included amnesty for war crimes

    Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogota

    Sunday 2 October 2016 19.30 EDT Last modified on Sunday 2 October 2016 20.38 EDT

    Colombians have rejected a peace deal to end 52 years of war with Farc guerrillas, throwing the country into confusion about its future.

    With counting completed from 98% of polling stations, the no vote led with 50.23% to 49.76%, a difference of 61,000 votes.

    The verdict on the deal between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc reached after four years of intense negotiations means it cannot now be implemented.

    'Forgiveness can change a country': Colombians on peace deal referendum

    Read more

    Polls before the vote predicted yes would win with a comfortable 66% share. Santos had been confident of a yes result and said during the campaign that he did not have a plan B and that Colombia would return to war if the no vote won. His opponents, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, said a win for their side would be a mandate for the government and rebels to negotiate a “better agreement”.

    Both government and rebels have repeatedly said that the deal was the best they could achieve and a renegotiation would not be possible.

    Supporters of the peace deal watch the results of the referendum in Cali on Sunday.




    Supporters of the peace deal watch the results of the referendum in Cali on Sunday. Photograph: Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images

    Santos, who watched the results come in at the presidential palace in Bogota, said he accepted the “no” result but said a ceasefire would continue.

    Santos, who has staked his legacy on achieving peace, said he would meet with all political parties on Monday to find a way forward for the peace process. The vote would not affect Colombia’s stability, he said.

    The Farc leader, Rodrigo Londono, said the insurgent group maintained its desire for peace despite the failure of a plebiscite to approve its recently signed deal with the government.

    “The Farc reiterates its disposition to use only words as a weapon to build toward the future,” said Londono, who is known by his nom de guerre, Timochenko. “To the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us, peace will triumph.”

    Under the agreement rejected by voters, the Farc’s 5,800 fighters and a similar number of urban militia members would have disarmed and become a legal political party. A bilateral ceasefire has been in effect since 29 August and it is uncertain whether that will remain in place.

    Antono Sanguino, leader of the Green party that promoted the yes vote said the results of the plebiscite left the country in a “situation of vertigo”.

    Half of the voters were convinced by a “discourse of hate”, he told Caracol television. “Not even the promoters of no know what happens now.”

    Meanwhile, supporters of the no campaign publicly reached out to theFarc.

    Francisco Santos, a former vice-president, said commanders would be given “all the guarantees to continue negotiations for this peace process to have a good conclusion”.

    Both the Farc and government had believed that was what they had reached.

    In a ceremony on 26 September, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and a dozen Latin American leaders on hand as witnesses, Santos and Farc leader Timochenko signed the deal their negotiators had reached after four years of talks in Havana.

    Read more

    In the days before the vote, Farc commanders rushed to make a round of public apologies to their victims in an attempt to boost support for the yes vote. On Thursday, chief rebel negotiator Iván Márquez presented the community of Bojayá, Chocó, where the 2002 bombing of a church killed 119 people, with a new crucifix. At a similar event on Friday in Apartadó, Antioquia, the site of a 1994 Farc massacre of 35 people, Márquez said it “never should have happened”.

    On Saturday UN monitors oversaw the Farc’s destruction of over 620 kilos of explosives in a remote corner of the country. The group also promised to give an accounting of their assets, to be used to compensate victims of the war, despite having previously said they had no money.

    But the apologies and promises appear to have come too late.

    The deal would have allowed rebel leaders to avoid jail if they confessed to their crimes such as killing, kidnapping, indiscriminate attacks, and child recruitment, something that many Colombians found hard to swallow.

    By promoting a no vote, Uribe argued that he did not support continued war but rather hoped to force the government and Farc to renegotiate a better deal. “Peace is exciting,” he said after casting his vote. “The texts from Havana are disappointing.”

    The Americas

    If the FARC deal passes, kiss Colombia goodbye

    By Fergus Hodgson
    ·Published October 02, 2016





    April 2, 2012: A Brazilian air force helicopter emblazoned with the Red Cross logo takes off from an airfield to pick up members of the last group of soldiers and police held by Colombia's main rebel group, in Villavicencio, Colombia.

    April 2, 2012: A Brazilian air force helicopter emblazoned with the Red Cross logo takes off from an airfield to pick up members of the last group of soldiers and police held by Colombia's main rebel group, in Villavicencio, Colombia. (AP)

    Talk of non-interventionism from the Venezuelan regime belies an eagerness to expand influence beyond their borders. For many years, they have had their eyes on Colombia; now the so-called Peace Agreement will open the door for 21st-century socialism, perhaps irreversibly.


    The lengthy negotiation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) proceeded under the protection of communist Cuba in Havana, after five decades of conflict with the brutal terrorists. Now the 297-page agreement is up for approval on Sunday. It needs a majority of votes and support from 13 percent of the electorate.

    On both counts, passage looks probable. Half of constituents plan to vote, and the "yes" side has the edge in support. Many on the "no" side will abstain and discourage participation, since they deem the referendum unconstitutional.

    Almost no one will read the agreement before voting, and the devil is in the details. Adamant support from Bolivarian Alliance neighbors, however, indicates what lies beneath the surface. This bloc, the brainchild of Hugo Chávez, opposes US influence in the Americas and advocates 21st-century socialism. Presidents Rafael Correa and Nicolás Maduro continue Chávez's ambition in Ecuador and Venezuela.

    These regimes have some of the most suffocated economies in world and a flagrant disregard for human rights such as free speech. Venezuela came in 159th and last in the latest Fraser Institute freedom ranking, and Ecuador is not much better at 142nd.

    Venezuela is now more violent and dangerous than Colombia, with regime-backed militias such as the Tupamaro. Last week a gang took over the Caracas University Hospital, and over 100 Caracas policemen have been murdered in 2016.

    The Marxist FARC are overt Chavistas and have a strong presence in Venezuela — with mutual affection expressed by both Chávez and Maduro — so they have negotiated in that direction. The agreement has 161 mandates, with 114 solely on the government.

    Beyond impunity, the terms create the institutional and political gateway for a new member of this Bolivarian Alliance. Colombia would ignite the Chavista dream of a socialist Gran Colombia, a short-lived 19th-century republic under Simón Bolívar.

    The agreement sets up a Reconciliation Council, local councils, long-term agrarian reform, and 10 guaranteed seats for the FARC through 2022: five in both the Senate and the House. In other words, new socialist bureaucracies and guaranteed political power.

    The FARC have largely boycotted past elections, but would be a force to be reckoned with. In part, they have already succeeded, since President Juan Manuel Santos's coalition included sympathizers whose priority was the agreement. They would be able to draw on drug-cartel funds, activist networks, violence and intimidation, and state propaganda from the Chavista TeleSUR. All TeleSUR presidents have been Colombian since the 2005 founding, with an eye on influence there.

    The agreement prohibits drug trafficking, but some FARC fronts will likely ignore this. The like-minded guerrilla Popular Liberation Army is also ready to move into vacated territory and sustain the profits.

    Further, many politicians support the FARC goal of 21st-century socialism. That includes Gustavo Petro Urrego, a former Bogotá mayor, guerrilla, and now presidential aspirant with an approval rating of 40 percent.

    To make matters worse, the deal comes when Colombians are vulnerable and desperate. As Colombian Senator Iván Duque Márquez has noted, "[Colombia] has the perfect conditions forChavista rhetoric: economic crisis and corruption."

    Like other Latin American countries, Colombia already has socialist leanings. At 116th on the Fraser Institute ranking, she only needs a nudge to line up with her authoritarian neighbors.

    This downward spiral would be hastened by the cost of the agreement's implementation, which necessitates national debt and new taxes. Negotiation was in the tens of millions of dollars, but that is pennies compared to what is in store, up to $187 billion in the first 10 years. One reason is the bribe for FARC members: $700 up front and $217 per month for two years for 10,000-17,500 people.

    Gushing international praise from the likes of President Barack Obama is naiveté and wishful thinking. There are reasons why former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) rejected any concessions. He understood that there was no common ground, and that the FARC would renege on any agreement.

    Colombia yearns for peace, but she need not capitulate before Latin America's most bloodthirsty guerrillas. Voters can still reject this agreement and pursue a just and lasting solution.

    Fergus Hodgson (@FergHodgson) is an economic consultant with the Fraser Institute in Canada and a research fellow with the Tax Revolution Institute in Washington, DC.
    Last edited by troung; 03 Oct 16,, 02:54.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    I love comment sections

    This is not the first time in the history of the human race that the entire nation rejected peace and opted for war instead.

    Among myriads of similar examples one truly stands out like a sore thumb.

    In 1992, the Bosnia's Moslem population of Bosnia (roughly 40% at the time) - at the strong urging of the then-U.S, ambassador to Bosnia, one Warren Zimmermann (no relation whatsoever with Robert Zimmermann, also known as Bob Dylan), rejected (after already having signed on) the so-called Lisbon Agreement, drafted by the then-foreign minister of Portugal Jose Cutileiro, which would have ended the ethnic bloodshed in the nascent country and saved face to all parties in the conflict.

    The resulting outcome? 200,000 dead (vast majority of whom Moslems), two million refugees, country in smoldering ruins and mass graves, forever divided along ethnic and religious lines, plus quarter of century of the ensuing sectarian hate and no hope whatsoever of the better future any time soon.

    The bottomline: no, sometimes the people should not and MUST not be asked what their government should do. In certain matters, the population of the entire country should NOT be asked for the freely expressed opinion, competent or otherwise, as the entire nation might opt for the collective suicide based on decades of cheap demagoguery, nationalistic or religious lies, or indecent regime propaganda. Peace comes first, foremost, paramount and supreme, no ifs, ands or buts. Cleansing of the decades of brainwash and improper political socialization comes next (Brexit comes to mind). Then, and only then, we can talk free and fair national opinions and referendums. There is no such thing as "free" and "democratic" referendum without the educated and unbiased population.

    The next step for the Columbian government and the FARC rebels should be to declare Columbian people and their irrational opinion null and void, completely disregard the "referendum" and get on with the peace efforts anyway. If, that is, they do not want to go the Bosnian way, which would be truly, truly lamentable, entirely irrational and, frankly, suicidal.

    My only concern is that the same powers that stood behind the torpedoing of the Bosnia's Lisbon Agreement (global weapons merchants and salesmen of sectarian death and doom, a/k/a the military-industrial complex) now stand behind the torpedoing of the Columbia's national reconciliation. The outbreak of peace must be prevented at ANY cost, even the prolonged agony of the entire nations, regions and continents.

    Will no one rid us of this troublesome beast?
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


    • #3


      Colombia’s Nobel Peace Prize: From Bad to Farce

      The Nobel committee in Norway awards Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos the coveted Peace Prize days after the Colombian people rejected his deal in a referendum.

      Christopher Dickey
      Christopher Dickey
      10.07.16 8:46 AM ET

      PARIS — The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. So, it would seem, is the road to the Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement Friday morning that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is this year’s honoree could not be a more perfect example.

      Yes, he reached an agreement with the interminable and apparently undefeatable cocaine-fueled rebellion by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army). But the actual Colombian people, far from prizing the deal, voted it down in a referendum last Sunday, if, indeed, they voted at all. So the war may well go on and on, and very likely get uglier and uglier.

      In living memory, the committee in Oslo has awarded intentions over results any number of times. So, too, in this case. Santos is the winner “for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people.”

      Often the point is to encourage peacemakers still in the process of resolving conflicts, and certainly the altruism of a Martin Luther King deserves recognition, but too often those awards have been based on cock-eyed optimism, especially when they come in the midst of prolonged and bloody wars.

      Thus Henry Kissinger, as brutal a practitioner of realpolitik as we’ve seen in the last 70 years, shared the 1973 prize for peacemaking in Vietnam, laying the groundwork for Hanoi to win a complete victory, conquering and occupying America’s erstwhile allies in Saigon in 1975.

      Then there was the 1994 award to Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for “their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” That didn’t work out so well, especially after an Israeli terrorist murdered Rabin the following year and Arafat eventually launched a new and bloody “intifada.”

      One of the more embarrassing prizes lately was to President Obama, who won it "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." A nice sentiment, certainly, but at the time he hadn’t even been in office a year, and two terms later many of his “efforts”—especially in the Syrian bloodbath—have faltered badly. Nor does his record using drones to blow away terrorists around the world, whether real or just suspected, bespeak a solid commitment to pacifism.

      It’s the Colombian case, however, that best exemplifies persistent problems at the core of high-profile peacemaking and the prize that is supposed to encourage it.

      One of the first and most obvious issues is that while the demands of combatants are accommodated, the plight of victims often is put aside.

      The FARC kidnapped and ransomed tens of thousands of people over the years, and compensation for them and their families was not part of the deal. The military and especially the paramilitary groups that fought against the guerrillas often were corrupt and savage in their own right. Who will help make their victims whole? No one.

      We have seen the same in other countries where “peace and reconciliation” may have led to a settlement among the amnestied fighters (previously known as terrorists and tyrants), but did little to help those innocents relegated to the category of “collateral damage.”

      Extortion and the international drug trade, in which the FARC remains a huge player, earned the guerrillas so much money that the commanders sometimes quite literally did not know what to do with the garbage bags full of 100-dollar bills that cluttered their headquarters. That money, now well hidden around the world, was left untouched by the deal.

      The FARC made some demands to try to support their self-image as altruistic revolutionaries, and in so doing challenged the status quo powers in Colombia. One of the key points that made it into the accords was a plan to examine property titles and bring a more equitable distribution of agricultural land to the rural peasantry. That would have threatened many of the richest people in the country, whose abuse of the system is well known.

      That the FARC would get an automatic ten seats in Colombia’s parliament, whether its representatives had won elections or not, was another point that rankled. In a close vote, those representatives could easily become dealmakers or breakers.

      Tellingly, those who have lived closest to the fighting voted overwhelmingly for the peace agreement. But they were defeated in the nationwide referendum, especially in cities far from the fighting, like Medellín, where people convinced themselves that the FARC was buckling under the pressure of military offensives backed by billions of dollars of U.S. support. So the idea of more war, for those in safe urban areas, is not so onerous.

      Get The Beast In Your Inbox!


      Even with all these flaws, Santos might have been able to sell the deal to a voting majority of the public if he were—well, if he were someone else. But Santos is a famously wooden public speaker, “anti-charismatic” says one negotiator who has watched him closely. And he failed to martial the kind of political backing on the ground that was needed.

      Even the conservative Catholic Church in heavily Catholic Colombia, rather than embracing this peace encouraged parishioners to vote against it.

      With misjudged and missing popular support, Santos looked for plaudits from abroad. He held a globally publicized ceremony after the deal was announced—but before the referendum—that brought such luminaries as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Cartagena. Also there were President Raúl Castro from Cuba and Foreign Minister Børge Brende of Norway, the two countries that served as “guarantors” for the peace agreement. (Oslo had a stake in this accord just as it did in the Israeli-Palestinian one 22 years ago.)

      Colombians are famously and fiercely nationalistic, and all these white-guayabera-clad foreigners, whatever their titles, did little to encourage support of the agreement. “It was very arrogant,” as one resident of Medellín told The Daily Beast earlier this week.

      Indeed, looking back, that word seems uncomfortably appropriate for so many of these prizes funded by the fortune of the man who invented the dynamite and the high explosives that brought truly industrial carnage to the battlefields of the world.

      It is, simply, arrogant to think you can impose peace on people by wishing it to be so. As the cynical Franco-British versifier Hilaire Belloc wrote a century ago in his famous couplet “The Pacifist”:

      Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
      But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.

      History—including Nobel history—shows us peace is most likely to come after decisive victories or mutual exhaustion or both, which is pretty much what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s, but only after hundreds of thousands of people had died.

      That’s an ugly fact, and we might well wish it otherwise. But that does not make it less true. When it comes to stopping a war, the prize of peace, as opposed to the Peace Prize, is not a matter of intentions and abstractions. It is a matter of politics, power, and action.
      To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway