Representatives from Colombia’s main political parties met in Cali on Monday to launch a “Vote Yes” campaign for an upcoming plebiscite seeking to ratify a pending peace deal with leftist FARC rebels.
The presidents of the Senate and House as well as party delegates of the U Party, Liberal Party, Conservative Party, Radical Change and Green Alliance flocked to Colombia’s third biggest city to launch the campaign in favor of the peace deal in the midst of an already active “No” movement.
“The ‘No’ were out some months ago, so the ‘Yes’, we have to go out onto the streets too,” said Green Alliance Senator Antonio Navarro adding that “I’m not campaigning, I’m validating what was explained when we voted yes, when we agreed on peace.”
The recent landmark approval for the plebiscite will require 13% or 4.5 million votes in favor to have the peace accord with the FARC rebels co-signed by the Colombian people.
The campaign, which the political committee of yes in the plebiscite for peace begins on Tuesday, aims to make tours of the Valle del Cauca on the western coast of the country which was one of the areas hardest hit by the armed conflict.
Those on the “yes” side see it as an opportunity to bring about a new era in Colombian society following 52 years of internal strife.
“This process of countersignature reconciles all the forces of the country, including those who were outside the law,” stated Radical Change party Senator Daira Galvis.
While the ongoing process seeks the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of the FARC, other illegal armed groups like the ELN and the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia will continue were not involved in the talks.
The ‘Yes’ side face significant opposition mainly led by former president and current Senator Alvaro who has criticized the peace process from the beginning and has been advocating “civil resistance” and “no” vote in a recent campaign.
Those leading the campaign for the “yes” vote are acutely aware of the activity of their opposition and recognize the need to get to the public and have their side heard.
“There is no mall, no park, no place where there aren’t “no” people asking for civil resistance” No “, so we can not sit still,” said Hernan Andrade, a senator from the Conservative Party.
The initiative will then travel to other parts of the country seeking ratification of a deal that the administration of President Santos have been negotiating since November 2012.
The participation of the FARC rebels in the politics has been met with severe opposition but opinion polls show a recent increase in support ahead of the “yes” campaign being rolled out across the country.
According to a recent poll conducted by Pulso Pais, the percentage of respondents who said they “agree” with “the high command of the FARC participating in politics” rose from 18% last May to 26% in July.
The poll surveyed a variety of public opinions and indicated that as the talks continue to progress, public confidence is improving with a 57% rise in those who believe that the FARC will sign the final agreement.
The FARC and the government of Juan Manuel Santos have been negotiating since November 2012 in Havana to end of more than a half century of armed conflict.
Both parties have reached partial agreements within six points of the agenda including: agricultural issues, reparation for victims, political participation, drug trafficking, abandonment of weapons and validation of the final peace agreement.
The pending issues on each part of the agenda are expected to be resolved in the coming weeks with the deal being put to the Colombian public through a plebiscite by November at the latest.
At the launch of the “yes” campaign in Cali, liberal representative Miguel Angel Pinto, said that “peace is the historic opportunity to transform the country.”