“Timochenko,” the supreme leader of Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC, on Sunday rejected a government proposal to hold a referendum to seek popular approval of an eventual peace deal between government and guerrillas.
According to Timochenko, whose real name is Rodrigo Londoño, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos is not seeking to increase popular participation in the final decision-making regarding an eventual peace accord, but in fact is trying to evade a direct popular vote.
The government “has indicated that it will provide a choice in which the public can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each of the points of the final agreement, while this couldn’t be further removed from its purpose,” said the rebel leader.
“What Santos wants is that the country votes ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to give the president extraordinary powers to issue decrees … aimed at putting the signed deals in Havana into effect,” according to Timochenko.
The proposed referendum further seeks the necessary popular approval for “the formation of a small legislative body that would consist of representatives of all political parties and a small representation of the FARC in charge of formulating the decrees.”
According to Timochenko, the rebels’ peace talks delegation was informally notified of the referendum proposal after which they decided to pause the negotiations to study the idea.
However, the FARC leader said that the government did not wait for the rebels’ input and moved forward in seeking the legislative and judicial approval of the bill.
Timochenko said that the implementation of the final peace accord is point six on the peace talks agenda, and the government is trying to push this legislation to eventually present the FARC with a finalized deal. “When the issue will be discussed at the negotiating table, what will happen is that the basic argument of the government will be that the state machine and the public expectations will be ahead.”
The FARC proposal to hold a constituent assembly to seek the implementation of the deal in the country’s constitution “will immediately be thrown out with the argument that this would mean more delays.”
The government and rebel delegates are set to meet again on Monday morning to continue the 13th round of talks, currently focused on the eventual political participation of the FARC in a post-conflict Colombia.