An emergency bill was presented to Colombia’s Congress on Thursday, seeking a change in the law allowing for the referendum on a potential peace agreement with rebel group FARC to be held on the same day as the 2014 congressional or presidential elections.
The government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle said in June that an eventual peace agreement with the guerrillas will be put to the Colombian people in a “referendum mechanism.”
The government on Thursday revealed their belief that such a referendum should take place simultaneous to either the congressional elections in March, or the presidential elections in May so as to ensure the “widest possible participation.”
This possibility however, is currently prohibited by Colombian law and this is what the bill seeks to change.
“This is why the bureau of national unity and the national government will today, present congress with a statutory bill that allows the referendums that have to do with the final arrangements for ending an armed conflict to coincide with normal elections,” explained President Juan Manuel Santos.
The head of state insisted that the bill was a priority for the government.
“The peace process is moving forward, talks in Havana are progressing. We have a responsibility, an obligation to ensure that the necessary arrangements are finalized for the Colombian people, as we have repeated for all scenarios, to decide whether the agreements that we make are acceptable or not,” stated Santos.
“I repeat, what we have decided is an act of responsibility to the country. If we come to some agreement, as we all want and we did not have the possibility of this endorsement, it would be an act of immense irresponsibility,” added the head of state.
Rebel group FARC and the government have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the internal conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict and the rights of the victims.