Colombia’s largest guerrilla group FARC has said it will discuss “adjustments and specifications” of an already signed peace deal with the government after the pact was struck down in a referendum last week.
Until Friday, the guerrillas had defended the pact they weren’t legally obligated to renegotiate.
Nevertheless, Sunday’s referendum did immediately suspend the execution of the deal, leaving the guerrillas with two options aside going back to war, which they have refused.
The FARC had the choice to either insist on maintaining the signed deal and let President Juan Manuel Santos ignore the “No” vote by having it ratified by the government-loyal Congress or allow the extra cycle of negotiations of the deal.
In a joint statement made with government negotiators in Havana, the parties said they “recognized … that those who took part in the plebiscite of last October 2 in a majority expressed to favor ‘No,’ even if it was for a narrow margin.”
“Within the framework of the presidential faculties allowed by the constitution, it is convenient that we continue listening, in a rapid and efficient process, to the different sectors of society to understand their concerns and as soon as possible define an exit along the indicated paths in the Constitutional Court sentence C-376 of 2016. The proposed adjustments and clarifications that result from this process will be discussed between the national government and the AFRC-EP to assure all.”
Government and FARC peace delegations
The two parties also vowed their commitment to a unilateral ceasefire that was put in place by presidential decree immediately after the shock referendum and asked the United Nations to maintain monitoring and verifying both parties’ vowed commitment.
The United Nations responded in a press release, vowing to “continue supporting Colombians in the construction of a stable and long-lasting peace.”
According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Colombians “have come too far to take a step back.”
The Colombian president this week met with the most prominent and vociferous former President Alvaro Uribe.
Additionally, he had talked to representative of the Evangelical community and the business community.
According to Santos, “With the ‘No’ people, we identified that many of their concerns are about points that require clarification or specifics,” leaving substantial changed demanded by Uribe untouched.
Citizens opposing the peace deal do this for a wide range of reasons; many demand higher penalties for war crimes and oppose the FARC’s political participation after having committed countless human rights violations and war crimes.
Colombian businessmen and members of the military are concerned about the transitional justice system that is expected to try some 24,400 public officials and 12,500 private persons and businesses for allegedly financing paramilitary groups.
Both of these sectors represent significant constituencies while the margin between “Yes” and “No” was less than 55,000.
A large number of Evangelical Christian pastors opposed the suspended peace process over concerns that gender-specific agreements, for example, for victims of sexual violence, could go against their family values.
While predominantly a Catholic country, the growing Evangelical community could therefore become a key constituency either to hold a new referendum or send it to Congress and acquire the necessary ratification there.
But in Colombia, there is a major disconnect with public concerns and political concerns over the deal.
Uribe has echoed all aforementioned concerns in his campaign, but he and his allies additionally face numerous accusations of war crimes and human rights violations that will be scrutinized once the transitional justice system takes effect.
This was highlighted on Friday when the Prosecutor General repeated his predecessor’s request Uribe for his alleged complicity in a 1997 massacre.
Additionally, undisclosed citizens sued the former president and other opposition leaders on charges they intentionally mislead the public to win the vote, an electoral crime with a minimum penalty of four years.
With the obtained cooperation of the FARC, it has become increasingly probably that the deal will not be sent to Congress without adjustments.
But what remains entirely unclear is whether the Colombian people will again be asked to ratify the changes in a second referendum.
What remains even more clear is what will happen with Uribe and his demands, considering the mounting legal pressure on him and his party.
Meanwhile, the situation in Colombia remains tense, particularly in the countryside where the risk of violent turf wars between the FARC and rivals is imminent.