Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday he will present a revised peace deal with FARC rebels to Congress on Wednesday, the reported deadline to have the guerrillas’ demobilization and disarmament process ratified before Christmas recess.
The president had already said that that Congress, rather than Colombia’s electorate, should ratify the revised peace deal after voters shockingly rejected the initial deal in an October 2 referendum.
Santos announced his decision after a meeting with the government’s chief negotiator in the four-year peace talks, Humberto de la Calle, and Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo.
Conveniently for Santos, opponents of the peace deal, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, had called to debate the second final version of the peace deal in Congress.
I agree that the discussions should move to Congress, and we will bring the issue [there] next week, on Wednesday.
President Juan Manuel Santos
Santos said that his administration had tried to hold a private meeting with the hard-line Uribe and his conservative Democratic Center party last week, but “we continue to wait for this meeting. We had a time set for last Thursday, but this proved impossible. We have said we are available and hope that on Monday this meeting with Democratic Center representatives can be held.
While Uribe and other prominent opponents of the peace deal were able to successfully promote a “No” vote in the referendum, the Democratic Center party only occupies 15% of the seats in Congress, making its congressional opposition virtually ceremonial.
The former President is facing multiple criminal investigations for the massive violation of human rights while he was president and before when he was governor of his home Antioquia province.
Nevertheless, Uribe won’t be alone in Congress, Evangelical Christian members of Santos’ own coalition have expressed reservations over the deal’s alleged “gender ideology,” or gender-specific victim aid for women and members of the country’s LGBT minority.
Until the new peace deal is ratified, the situation in Colombia’s countryside remains tense amid fears heavily armed FARC guerrillas could desert their organization or end up in turf wars with rival illegal armed groups.
According to media reports, Santos had to present the deal before Congress before Wednesday or lose the possibility to have it approved before Christmas recess.
This would mean the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament would remain suspended until at least February while violent incidents have already occurred.