Colombia President Santos said Tuesday that a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC will end on October 31st after the country’s voters narrowly rejected a peace deal with the country’s largest, oldest and most-feared rebel group.
The bilateral ceasefire was supposed to have moved on to the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament phase, but was stopped in its tracks by the referendum in which 50.2% of voters said “No” to the deal, while 68% of the electorate didn’t even show up at the polling station.
Consequently, the country has entered into a state of political, social and public security uncertainty unseen since the late 1990s.
Santos to meet Uribe
Santos announced the extension of the ceasefire shortly after agreeing to meet with the primary opponent of peace with the FARC, former President Alvaro Uribe, whose has fiercely and sometimes illegally opposed the talks, and former President Andres Pastrana.
Uribe, like the FARC, is accused of numerous war crimes including a massacre, the promotion of paramilitary groups and the execution of thousands of civilians to inflate the military’s apparent effectiveness.
The former president issued his first four proposals on Monday, three of which have surprisingly been long-agreed with the FARC, indicating that the hard-line president also has no negotiation scenario that, according to him could take another 20 years, which he said is, “better than surrendering the country to the FARC.”
But while Uribe was pretending he is holding the cards, Santos gave him a clear time limit to come up with a compromise.
For years, the former president has refused to associate himself, until after the referendum sank the peace deal.
FARC regroups to evade attacks
Immediately after Santos’ announcement, FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko,” rhetorically asked Santos, “and from then on the war continues?”
— Rodrigo Londoño (@TimoFARC) October 5, 2016
Half an hour later, FARC front commander “Pastor Alape” tweeted “all our units must move towards secure positions to avoid provocations,” effectively undoing the group’s physical preparations to demobilize and disarm that had already begun.
Todas nuestras unidades deben empezar a moverse a posiciones seguras para evitar provocaciones https://t.co/QHVyFQloeo
— Pastor A. Lascarro (@AlapePastorFARC) October 5, 2016
The biggest security risk is not the resumption of war between the military and the FARC, but other illegal armed groups who could take advantage of the chaos to assume territory currently under FARC control.
While the police had already begun moving into these areas, this operation was also stopped in its tracks, creating a potentially explosive situation in large parts of the country where one of the illegal armed groups exercises some form of military control.
While nervous and armed FARC guerrillas wait in the jungles, police reported that alleged paramilitary successors had attacked a police station in the Valle del Cauca province just hours after the results were made public.
Paramilitary successor group AGC, a.k.a. “Los Urabeños,” wants to take part in the peace process and has consistently promoted the process.
While openly supporting the process, the group has clashed with the FARC in the west and the northwest of the country on several occasions this year and has increasingly profiled itself as a politically-motivated group with territorial control.
While the entire country feels anxious and insecure about the consequences of Sunday’s vote and the ongoing intents of Uribe to stall the process, the countryside is tense.
It’s especially in these areas where the FARC and paramilitary successor groups have been wreaking havoc for years that support for the peace deal was overwhelming, mainly because it sought major investments to help curb poverty in the war-torn and lawless rural areas.
These people will now have to wait and see whether Santos and Uribe, the bickering rivals who got Colombia in this unprecedented crisis, either reconcile and agree to resume the peace process or resume the fighting that has already cost the lives of 265,000 Colombians, left 45,000 forcibly disappeared and approximately 7 million displaced.