Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday announced that a plebiscite seeking the ratification of a peace deal between his administration and FARC rebels will be held on October 2.
Santos’ announcement came shortly after government and guerrilla negotiators announced they had finalized a peace deal after more than five years of talks.
Colombia and FARC rebels reach historic peace deal after bloody war
Ever since the beginning of the formal part of the talks in 2012 Santos has promised a referendum on a deal, giving Colombians the final say over the future of their country.
“The day has come. Today we can say, finally, that everything is agreed on,” Santos said in a televised speech.
“I promised you that you would have the last word and so it will be,” said the president.
Colombia stakes peace deal on vote; but for millions, their future is at stake
Colombians’ last word on the deal will be either a “Yes” or a “No” as the plebiscite does not allow voters to reject specific sub-points of the agenda.
This means that Colombians will have to swallow some bitter pills if voting in favor of peace with the country’s oldest and largest rebel group.
Controversial topics like the political participation of convicted war criminals and their ability to evade prison if cooperating with justice can not be rejected individually.
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The Santos administration has already began with an “education campaign” that seeks to educate the Colombian people on the contents of the peace deal, but also the hidden and inconvenient truths of the country’s half-a-century war.
Juan Manuel Santos
Meanwhile, Santos’ governing coalition and the leftist opposition have begun campaigning with their electoral base to ratify the peace deal.
The conservative opposition, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, has been fiercely campaigning against the talks for years and is now trying to convince voters to reject the peace deal.
While Santos claimed on Thursday the peace deal is “not modifiable,” Uribe has been claiming that a rejection will result in the renegotiation of, for example, the FARC’s political participation and the transitional justice system.
What stands between today and peace with Colombia’s FARC rebels
If Colombia votes yes in the plebiscite, this means Santos and FARC leader “Timochenko” will sign the agreement after which the FARC immediately will begin their demobilization and disarmament under the supervision of the United Nations.
If Colombia rejects the deal nobody really knows what is next as the plebiscite is unprecedented and the government has failed to present a Plan B.