Will Colombians accept revised peace deal with FARC rebels?

Government incorporates proposals from opponents who rejected agreement in referendum

Bogota / Caracas - 14 Nov 2016 - 14:24 UTC

Colombia’s government signed a revised peace deal with the country’s leftist FARC rebels on Saturday. A copy of the new agreement, which comes six weeks after a referendum that rejected a historic deal ending more than five decades of conflict, was released on Sunday evening. The government and the FARC, which have been holding talks in Havana for four years, said they had incorporated proposals from the opposition, religious leaders and other civil society groups.

Colombian's celebrate the new peace deal.
Colombian's celebrate the new peace deal.G. LEGARIA / AFP

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But the new deal will not modify a controversial part of the accord that gives the FARC 10 congressional seats through to 2026 or prevent rebel leaders from eventually being elected to political posts.

President Juan Manuel Santos now hopes to unite his divided nation behind the new deal after the peace process was endangered by its rejection in the October plebiscite. Colombian voters were deeply split, with many worried the FARC would not be punished for crimes and others hopeful the deal would cement an end to violence. The referendum was rejected by some 54,000 votes.

Campaigners against the original peace deal, signed on September 26, led by former president Álvaro Uribe, put forward some 400 proposals included in 57 main areas that have been negotiated over the last month with FARC representatives in Havana, Cuba.

The revised accord will be sent to Congress rather than being put to another referendum

Among the proposals the government and the FARC have accepted is that foreign magistrates will be removed from special peace tribunals, although foreign observers will remain. At the same time, the FARC must provide full disclosure about its involvement in drug trafficking.

Furthermore, the work of the special tribunals will be limited to 10 years and any investigations must be opened within two years of the new deal being approved. Concerns over lenient sentences for FARC fighters confessing to crimes was one of the major reasons Colombians voted against the deal in October.

Other modifications to the peace deal include requiring the rebels to present an inventory of acquired money and holdings, which will be used to compensate victims. There are also provisions of safeguards for land and property owners as part of agrarian reform in the countryside.

Another controversial aspect of the original deal related to women and the LGBT community, which noted that their experiences during the conflict had been different, and thus calling for special reparations for women and LGBT victims. This was seized on by conservative opponents to the peace deal as an attempt to undermine so-called traditional family values and structures in Colombian society, privileging the LGBT community.

The FARC must provide full disclosure about its involvement in drug trafficking

In the new text, the question of LGBT rights has been diluted, although it still spells out that all Colombians have the same rights under the law, regardless of their sexual orientation, age, gender, or creed.

The revised accord is expected to be sent to Congress rather than being put to another referendum.

Formed in 1964, the FARC reached prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. At its peak, it was Latin America’s largest and best-equipped militant organization, with an estimated 20,000 fighters that managed to gain control over large areas of territory. Its five-decade struggle with the government claimed more than 220,000 lives and has seen up to eight million people displaced.

 English version by Nick Lyne.

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