Colombia's president has vowed to "reach satisfactory solutions for everyone" after a truce with FARC rebels was rejected by a razor-thin margin. Voters were unhappy with perceived soft treatment for guerrillas.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos addressed a tense nation on Monday after a referendum rejected a peace deal aimed at ending the 52-year conflict between the government and far-left guerrillas known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Anger over amnesty for former militants proved to be too much for some voters, and the peace deal was shot down by a slim majority of 50.2 percent.
In his televised speech, Santos said he had asked the government's head negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, to "begin discussions as soon as possible addressing all the necessary issues to have an agreement and realize the dream of every Colombian to end the war with the FARC.
"With the will for peace from all sides, I am sure we can reach satisfactory solutions for everyone soon," said Santos. "The country will come out winning and the process will be strengthened."
Santos' popularity took a steep nosedive after the results were announced on Sunday.
The referendum result has left the country in an uncertain limbo. Polls that had indicated the "Yes" camp, in favor of the deal, was far ahead of "No" had bestowed the public with a certain sense of security, and many of the 7,000 rebel fighters still hiding in the jungle had begun to emerge from their hideouts.
Now, both parties must scramble to save the deal before plunging the country back into war.
The "Yes" campaign was also likely hurt by the extremely low turnout, with only 37 percent of eligible voters showing up to Sunday's poll.
Latin America's longest war
The protracted Colombian conflict, the longest in the history of Latin America, has claimed some 220,000 people, many of them civilians, since the Marxist guerrillas first declared war on a corrupt government in 1964.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he still had faith in the Colombian government and the rebels to hold on to the cease-fire in the interest of civilians.
"We would have hoped for a different result, but I am encouraged by the commitment," Ban said of Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko. "I count on them to press ahead until they achieve secure and lasting peace.
Despite the setback, major strides at a lasting peace have been made in recent years. FARC finally admitted that they have trafficked drugs, allowed minors into their ranks and carried out massacres. As part of the deal, FARC's legitimate political arm has also entered parliament, with seats guaranteed until 2026. After that date, the former rebels will have to prove their political strength at the ballot box.
es/cmk (AFP, Reuters)