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Colombian 'No' campaigner quits CD party after FARC vote revelations

A leader of Colombia's "no" campaign against peace with FARC has resigned from the Democratic Center party. Prosecutors opened an investigation after Juan Carlos Velez said "no" campaigners used "misleading" tactics.

Juan Carlos Velez, who helped torpedo peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Sunday's referendum, resigned from the Democratic Center (CD) late Thursday. The attorney general will investigate whether statements made by Velez in a newspaper interview constitute admitting to a crime.  

"To the members of the Democratic Center, I reiterate my apologies and offer my renunciation from the party for the damage that I might have caused with my imprecise words in the heat of a moment of elevated emotions," Velez said in a statement.

In an interview with La Republica, Velez said the CD had steered social media discussion away from the content of the accord and focused instead on fomenting "indignation" before Colombians voted 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent against the accord. "We wanted people to go to vote angry," Velez told the newspaper.

The deal would have ended a 52-year war that has left nearly 220,000 people dead, tens of thousands missing and millions displaced. A student protest organized over social media with the hashtag #AcuerdoYa ("accord already") drew tens of thousands of people to the streets in 14 cities around the country late Wednesday for a silent vigil. And an estimated 40,000 protesters, many dressed in white and carrying candles, flags and pictures of loved ones who died in the war, demonstrated in the capital, Bogota.

The CD has now joined talks with the government on proposed amendments to create common ground on which to salvage the deal.

'Very dangerous limbo'

FARC guerrillas began returning to Colombia's jungles and mountains after voters rejected the deal, Red Cross sources told news agencies. Ahead of the referendum, the nominally Marxist rebels had gathered in a remote area known as El Diamante in southern Colombia in preparation for a UN-monitored disarmament process. But they returned to their positions after Sunday's shock referendum result, said sources from the humanitarian group, which helped facilitate their transport.

President Juan Manuel Santos and his FARC counterpart, Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londono Echeverri, scrambled to save the accord. A ceasefire stands, but Santos, who has staked his legacy to making peace, warned that Colombia finds itself in a "very dangerous limbo."

The deal would have allowed the movement to relaunch as a political party and offered leniency to former rebels and government soldiers and their paramilitary allies for crimes during the conflict, which now has no formal foreseeable end.

Watch video 00:46

Colombia to begin fresh peace talks

mkg/kl (EFE, AFP, dpa)

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