BY: RAHUL ROKKAM, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR
In a surprisingly frequent manner, another peace deal has been shattered – this time in Colombia.
After 4 years of negotiations, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono signed a peace deal using pens made out of recycled bullets to end a 52 year-old war. But President Santos wanted to give the deal “democratic legitimacy,” so a referendum was held to validate the deal. 37% of eligible voters showed up, with 49.78% voting “yes” and 50.22% voting “no.” The narrow loss was incredibly shameful for President Santos, whose 4 years of hard work and resounding guarantee by nearly all the opinion polls was put to waste.
Why did it happen?
Why would 50% of the voter turnout reject a deal that is, after all, for peace? Many believe that the deal is “forgiveness without justice.” Salud Hernandez, a correspondent for El Mundo newspaper who was kidnapped in May, said the accord is “not justifiable for the Colombian people.” She explains that the “tragedies of the war and the tears of the people” resulting from “this stupid war” has “planted much more tragedy than misery.” Former President Alvaro Uribe Velez lead the opposition to the deal, claiming it offers far too much impunity for FARC fighters and gives them unneeded political legitimacy. Many voters are too scarred to make peace with a group that has haunted most of their lives. Jennie K. Lincoln, director of the Americas Program at The Carter Center, explains that “there are victims, people who want revenge, and people who cannot forgive the horrible results of a civil war.” Looking at the results of the referendum, enough time hasn’t passed to heal the scars of the Colombian people.
Who are the FARC?
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, more commonly known by the acronym FARC, are Colombia’s largest and oldest guerrilla group. Since 1964 they have been at war with the Colombian government – one of the longest conflicts of all time. The FARC are flagrantly anti-US and Marxist; it’s no surprise their mission is to overthrow the Colombian government and radically redistribute wealth across the country. They have hijacked dozens of planes, made millions trafficking cocaine, kidnapped high profile political leaders, and forced children to become guerilla soldiers – all in an attempt to achieve their mission.
In a televised address to the entire nation shortly after the referendum ended, President Santos urged Colombians not to give up hope on a peace deal. He vowed to keep fighting for peace and stressed a view towards the future – rather than the past. FARC leadership also published a statement, saying “With today’s result, we know that our goal as a political movement is even more grand and strong. The FARC maintains the will of peace and reiterates its disposition to only use words as a weapon for constructing the future.” It is clear that the political elites are on solid ground for a peace deal, but it remains the Colombian citizens are not there yet. Time cannot ease the pain incurred over the past 5 decades in such a short while, so there will likely be a shift towards harsher punishment and integration of the FARC fighters. Peace may have been narrowly avoided in Colombia, but hopes certainly aren’t.