Preliminary committees in both the House and the Colombian Senate this week passed a bill that would make any potential peace agreement between the FARC rebel group, Colombia’s oldest and largest, and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos subject to a voter referendum.
After stalling temporarily in the Senate last week, the bill moved smoothly through both chambers of Congress, with the only opposition stemming from hardline loyalists to ex-President Alvaro Uribe, who has come out strongly against the peace process in general.
The bill is expected to be picked up as soon as next week by the general assemblies, which will decide whether any forthcoming peace deal should be made to pass through a public approval process.
The FARC, meanwhile, has voiced its opposition to the referendum, the method being advocated for by the Santos government, and is in the process of attempting to meet with congressional leaders in Havana, to persuade them to alter or vote against the bill.
As things stand, the bill would place any future peace agreement on the national election ballot next March. The government, according to the bill, would be required to finance both sides of the public discussion leading up to the referendum, and ensure both are given equal media access.