Colombia, FARC rebels strike new peace deal | News | DW | 12.11.2016
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Colombia, FARC rebels strike new peace deal

The Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels have reached a new peace deal to end Latin America's longest-running conflict. A previous agreement was shot down by voters in an October referendum.

The Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have reached a new peace accord just six weeks after voters rejected a previous deal in a referendum, chief negotiators from both sides said Saturday.

"The construction of a stable and durable peace, which is the objective of this new accord, must be the commitment of all Colombians that contributes to overcoming polarization and includes all political and social expressions," the joint declaration said.

President Juan Manuel Santos had vowed to reach a new peace deal as soon as possible after voters narrowly defeated an October 2 referendum following more than four years of tough talks that led to the two sides inking the previous accord on September 26. 

Government negotiator Humberto de La Calle described the new deal as "much better" than the previous one. However, he did not say when or whether it would be submitted to voters or congress for approval. 

"The new deal is an opportunity to clear up doubts, but above all to unite us," he said.

FARC chief Timoleon Jimenez, who had previously expressed optimism the two sides could reach a new agreement, said on Twitter that "Colombia, together with young people from all political parties, would ratify the new agreement."


Five decades of civil war

After the referendum was defeated, Santos reached out to the backers of the "No" vote and took in their proposals for changes. The government and FARC have been meeting in Cuba since late October to integrate the suggestions of those opposed to the deal. 

Supporters of the "No" vote included Alvaro Uribe, a senator and Colombia's former hard-line president, and parts of the church, as well as victims and sectors of society who backed the deal but wanted revisions.

Uribe said on Twitter that his side would want to examine the new document, and that they may want to change some provisions.

"I have asked the president that the texts they announce in Havana not be definitive," Uribe said.

Those opposed to the deal were against its transitional justice provisions that allow for an amnesty for most FARC guerillas or require those convicted to perform community service such as clearing landmines in war-torn places instead of face jail time. The opposition wants those responsible for atrocities to be locked up and barred from politics.

Under the deal, FARC would have been automatically given 10 congressional seats in government up to 2026, after which it would have to compete in elections. Opponents of the deal said that was unacceptable.

In a televised address to the nation on Saturday evening, Santos said he had instructed his negotiating team to return to Colombia to explain the outlines of the new accord to opponents. But he said negotiators did not reach agreement on the opposition's demand that FARC leaders not be allowed to run for elected offices.

"We won't have assigned legislative seats. To the contrary, they will have to participate in elections. Nor will they have positions in government, as has occurred in other cases. But yes, they can be elected," he said.

"It is very important Colombians understand that the reason for all peace processes in the world is precisely that rebels lay down arms and can participate in legal politics," Santos said.

The revised accord also changed some provisions of the justice and punishment plank of the deal for those convicted of war crimes, and addressed reparations for victims and issues of drug trafficking.

At least 220,000 people have died and some 8 million have been displaced in more than five decades of civil war. FARC, Colombia's armed forces and right-wing paramilitaries have all been implicated in crimes and abuses.

cw/cmk (AFP, Retuers)

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