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Colombia

Scramble to 'fix' Colombia peace deal

Colombia's peace referendum defeat has prompted UN chief Ban Ki-moon to dispatch his special envoy for more talks. FARC rebels say they will "fix" the deal rejected by a voters' margin of merely 54,000.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that he had sent Jean Arnault, his special envoy (pictured above), back to Cuba's capital, Havana, where the peace deal to end half a century of conflict in Colombia was brokered during four years of negotiations. 

In Sunday's referendum on that deal - signed last month between FARC rebels and President Juan Manuel Santos - Colombian opponents, including former president Alvaro Uribe, prevailed with a razor-thin majority of 50.21 percent.

Turnout among 35 million eligible voters was only a low 37 percent. Support for the deal was 49.78 percent, leaving many Colombians shocked because pollsters had previously predicted approval.

Griechenland Besuch UN Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon (Getty Images/AFP/Y. Kontarinis)

Press ahead toward peace, urges Ban

'Profound desire'

Ban, who attended last month's signing in Cartagena, told a news conference in Geneva on Monday that he had "witnessed a profound desire of the Colombian people to end the violence."

"I count on them to press ahead until they achieve secure and lasting peace," Ban said.

Uribe, a Santos ally turned critic, and other opponents had argued that the rebels should never be permitted to enter politics and should serve jail terms instead.

The deal signed last week foresaw rebels handing their weapons over to the United Nations, confessing crimes and forming a political party that would have been able to compete in the 2018 elections and have 10 congressional seats until 2026.

FARC ready to 'fix' deal

Rodrigo Londono, who heads FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), said on Monday in a radio interview from Havana that his militia was prepared to "fix" the peace deal with the government.

The Colombian government's chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, offered his resignation to President Santos, saying he did not want to be "an obstacle to what comes next."

"In the end, hate toward the FARC won out over hope for the future," said Jason Marczack, an expert on Latin America at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

Comparison to 'Brexit'

Borge Brende, foreign affairs minister of Norway, one of the countries that supported the peace process, told radio NRK that the accord supporters should strive to save the peace deal by taking into account opposition views.

Commentators compared Colombia's shock result to Britain's narrow "Brexit" referendum vote in June to leave the European Union.

Over 52 years, Colombia's conflict, the longest in Latin America, has claimed 220,000 lives, displaced millions and resulted in atrocities on all sides.

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said Latin Americans were "saddened by the slim victory for 'No'."

ipj/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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