After years of promising the Colombian people they could vote on a possible peace deal with the FARC in a referendum, President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday ruled out a popular vote, claiming this would be “suicide.”
Santos also discarded the possibility of a Constituent Assembly to implement possible changes to the constitution that may be necessary after the deal.
Instead, the government has decided to expand presidential powers and the creation of a legislative assembly to implement the peace deals that are expected to be finalized imminently.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo announced this decision on Monday, following a meeting with the chief government negotiator in the peace talks, Humberto de la Calle, and congressional representatives.
According to El Espectador newspaper, a legislative assembly has been proposed, that will administer the Colombian president with supreme power, in order to speed up the process of installing the peace agreements made between the government and the FARC guerrilla group, following talks that began in November 2012.
“This is the conclusion that has been reached: first, we are going to work with the political parties to find a way in which the Colombian State can guarantee the completion of the agreements that are eventually arrived at in Havana”, said Santos, according to Blu Radio news.
The option of a National Constituent Assembly or a referendum to install the peace agreements has been scrapped by Santos, despite previously favoring the latter.
Only in August the government said that a popular referendum could be preferable in order to ratify the deal as fast as possible.
The FARC on the other hand, consistently asked for a constituent assembly, which could count on the support of Colombia’s business leaders.
“[The government will have] authority over the issue of agricultural development, the elimination of drug trafficking, political participation, and everything else that has been agreed on in Havana, and of course it will be the special legislative Commission that will facilitate the implementation of the agreements,” said Cristo.
According to the minister, “this is the most institutional way, respecting the Congress of the Republic, so that with good knowledge and understanding the reforms are approved.”
There are still a number of meetings due to take place with the opposition parties to formalize the proposal. Similarly, the peace delegation of the government will be meeting with the guerrillas in Havana this coming weekend, according to reports.
The peace process began as an attempt by the FARC and the government to end Colombia’s armed conflict, which began in 1964 and has killed more than 260,000 people and displaced over 6 million.