Colombia’s opposition on Wednesday renewed calls for the public to engage in “civil resistance” against a national peace process after the government closed a peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels.
The revised deal whose implementation would end a 52-year conflict has been slammed by the opposition led by former President Alvaro Uribe who claimed there are “serious issues” that should be put to the public in another referendum.
It is necessary to resort to a national referendum, whether on the whole agreement or at least on those sensitive issues on which there is no agreement.
Senator Alvaro Uribe
Jose Obdulio Gaviria, a cousin of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar and now a senator for Uribe’s Democratic Center party, said his party will “ignore” the new agreement if it is not endorsed by a referendum, and explained that actions of “civil resistance” will be made by that political sector which will include mobilizations, “denunciations in the media and ‘disobedience’ in areas where possible.”
The calls from Uribe and the Democratic Center to reject and oppose the revised peace deal come at a very precarious time as community leaders across the country are already becoming victims of violence and threats as they await its implementation.
President Juan Manuel Santos chaired a high-level meeting on Tuesday with members of his government and human rights organizations to assess the security situation and said he was not going “to allow violence to jeopardize the progress and hopes of peace.”
“These events are palpable, dramatic evidence of the risks that uncertainty that exists around the implementation of the peace accords,” he said.
He also called for “accelerating” the implementation of the peace pact especially in areas where, according to the guerrillas, only in the last three days, three community leaders have been killed and two have suffered attacks.
Uribe, who himself is implicated in a number of war crime investigations, led the opposition to the original peace deal by holding rallies and protests across Colombia.
The deal was put to the Colombian public in a plebiscite on October 2 but rejected.
Since then the negotiation teams have worked extensively with various groups in Colombian society to address the grievance and the revised deal is due to be formally signed on Thursday and subsequently ratified in congress without another referendum.
As thousands of FARC rebels lie in wait in camps for demobilization to begin, further resistance and delays to its implementation could drastically damage an already fragile bilateral ceasefire.
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the Colombian government and FARC leaders said, “The consolidation of peace requires that we advance with firm steps towards the implementation of the agreements, which will allow us to overcome so many years of conflict in Colombia.”
Uribe and the Democratic Center are calling for more dramatic changes to the accord that would ban former rebels from holding public office and more severe punishment for their crimes.
Santos claims that the majority of their requests have been addressed in the revised deal.
“This new accord possibly won’t satisfy everybody, but that’s what happens in peace accords. There are always critical voices; it is understandable and respectable,” said Santos, 65, warning another plebiscite could divide the nation and put in danger the bilateral ceasefire.