Monday November 20, 2017
Home U.S.A. The Americas’...

The Americas’ longest war to end with peace accord signing in Cartagena

A final peace agreement between Colombia’s government and a national guerrilla movement is to be signed Monday, bringing to an end the longest-running insurgency in the Western hemisphere

0
126
Members of the Colombian navy gather outside a church where President Juan Manuel Santos will attend mass on Monday, before signing a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in Cartagena, Colombia, September 25, 2016. VOA

Cartagena, 26 Sept 2016: A final peace agreement between Colombia’s government and a national guerrilla movement is to be signed Monday, bringing to an end the longest-running insurgency in the Western hemisphere.

“It’s the end of the last full-blown guerrilla warfare inspired originally by Cuban and Soviet ideology against democratic institutions in this hemisphere,” is how it is characterized by a senior U.S. administration official.

The conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose funding was primarily derived from the country’s illicit cocaine industry, is blamed for leaving dead more than 250,000 people and displacing at least five million.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

Sixteen heads of state and two dozen foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are expected to attend the signing ceremony at the convention center in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena, founded in the 16th century.

“Peace will begin on Monday when I and the president shake hands,” said FARC maximum leader Rodrigo Londoño (known as Timochenko) on Saturday as he left the remote southern plains and boarded a helicopter operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with about 40 other rebel commanders.

Chief peace negotiator for the Colombian government, Humberto De la Calle, talks to an aide in Barranquilla, Colombia, Sept. 14, 2016. VOA
Chief peace negotiator for the Colombian government, Humberto De la Calle, talks to an aide in Barranquilla, Colombia, Sept. 14, 2016. VOA

De-mining

FARC has also agreed to cooperate with de-mining. Colombia has the second highest number of land mines in the world after Afghanistan.

The United States is taking some of the credit for bringing about the peace pact, which diplomats in Washington describe as a transformational event for Colombia and the region and one that President Barack Obama has described as one of the most important achievements during his presidency.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, who has staked his reputation on ending the war, had asked the United States to increase its engagement in the four year negotiating process, which mostly took place in Cuba, and a special envoy, Bernard Aronson, was named who participated in the talks.

“It’s about far more than just giving up weapons of war,” said a senior U.S. administration speaking on condition he not be named. “It really includes a major transformation of Colombia itself, it includes a far-reaching commitment to bring government services, security, police, education, health, roads, economic development to the vast stretches of the interior that have been left out of national life.”

Proponents of the deal also note the commitment to work with farmers to get land titles, access to transportation networks for their harvests of legal crops, rather than cocoa leaf production. It also includes transitional justice efforts that will hopefully lead to reconciliation in the countryside.

They also predict it will be the catalyst for Colombia’s GDP to grow at twice its current place and triple foreign directly investment following years of negative growth and capital flight.
Hope compromise pays off

But not everyone supports the deal on which Colombians will render a verdict in a nationwide binding referendum on October 2.

Recent public opinion polls in the country show a double digit advantage for the “Yes” camp, despite widespread loathing for FARC and a robust “No” campaign spanning the political spectrum.

“The consequences of a loss would be catastrophic,” Humberto De la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator, said in announcing the agreement.

Marco Leon Calarca, (L) a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), talks to members of FARC, at a camp to prepare for an upcoming congress ratifying a peace deal with the government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia.
Marco Leon Calarca, (L) a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), talks to members of FARC, at a camp to prepare for an upcoming congress ratifying a peace deal with the government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia.

Former President Alvaro Uribe contends the deal gives total amnesty to drug trafficking by labeling it a political crime and “Colombians have learned over decades of attempted negotiations with other terrorist groups it is that impunity always becomes the seed of new forms of violence.”

The current president argues compromise was necessary to convince the rebels to turn over their weapons after more than a half century of conflict.

The deal is the best his government could achieve, Santos says, to convince thousands of rebels to stop causing bloodshed and havoc through much of the country.
Other peace threats

The peace pact also includes a large new security commitment by Colombia’s government to go after the extremely violent bandas criminales (known by the acronym BACRIM), some of which are successors to right-wing paramilitaries engaged in cocaine production and smuggling, killings of right activists and have clashed with FARC fighters and other left-wing guerrillas.

The immediate, biggest threat to the October 2 peace referendum could be low voter turnout. To be valid it must be endorsed by at least 13 percent of all registered voters. A 2003 referendum on political reform backed by Uribe failed to cross the threshold.

It’s unclear what happens if the referendum is defeated.

“Although the FARC has reiterated a commitment to peace in recent months and said it will not return to war even if the accord isn’t approved, the fear I’ve heard is that a strong “no” vote would leave those favoring a military solution with the upper hand,” according to Ginny Bouvier, senior advisory for peace processes at the U.S. Institute for Peace.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

“It could also lead to a resurgence of violence in the countryside against social leaders and politicians who have led the charge for victims’ rights to restitution and reparations.”

Besides BACRIM, the smaller Marxist-Leninist rebel National Liberation Army still remains active thus even with the Cartagena signing total peace in Colombia will remain elusive. (VOA)

Next Story

Colombian Referendum: President accepts the result, vows to seek peace

"I will not give in and I will continue to seek peace to the last day of my mandate," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said after Sunday's defeat of a referendum on a treaty with FARC rebels

0
67
Colombian President
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos makes the victory sign after voting in a referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace deal he signed with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Bogota, Colombia, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA
  • Santos went on Colombian television to accept defeat of the referendum but refused to declare that peace with the rebels is dead
  • The leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Rodrigo Londono, who is also known as Timochenko, is also refusing to give up
  • The peace agreement signed last week was aimed at formally ending the 52-year-old uprising by the leftist rebels
  • The United States spent billions of dollars in military aid to help the Colombian government combat FARC and bring it to the negotiating table

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says he is not giving up on peace after Sunday’s stunning defeat of a referendum on a treaty with FARC rebels.

Voters narrowly rejected the deal 50.2 percent to 49.7. Public opinion polls going into Sunday’s voting forecast the referendum would pass overwhelmingly.

Santos went on Colombian television to accept defeat of the referendum but refused to declare that peace with the rebels is dead.

[sociallocker][/sociallocker]

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

“I will not give in and I will continue to seek peace to the last day of my mandate,” he said.

Santos ordered his negotiators to return to Havana, Cuba, where four years of peace talks had taken place. Santos reassured the nation that the cease-fire with the rebels will remain.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks after after voting in a referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace deal he signed with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos speaks after voting in a referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace deal he signed with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA

The leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Rodrigo Londono, who is also known as Timochenko, is also refusing to give up.

“To the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us. Peace will triumph.”

He is also expected to return to Havana.

WATCH a 2 min video: Columbians narrowly reject the Peace Agreement

https://youtu.be/-8yUprTPwkY

Supporters of both sides took to the streets of Bogota after the results of the referendum were announced. The “no” celebrated while a group of “yes” voters, dressed in white from head to toe, gathered outside President Santos’ home.

The peace agreement signed last week was aimed at formally ending the 52-year-old uprising by the leftist rebels. The guerrilla war in Colombia has killed more than 220,000 people and driven millions from their homes.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

The Santos government had waged a fierce campaign in favor of the peace deal, appealing to the millions of Colombians who say they are sick of war and violence and terrorism.

But the “no” side, led by Santos’ chief political rival, former President Alvaro Uribe, campaigned just as vigorously against the deal.

 

Former President and opposition Senator Alvaro Uribe shows a clip of a news article with a headline reading in Spanish "FARC puts a C4 collar around the neck of a Venezuelan," after voting in a referendum to decide whether or not to support a peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Re
Former President and opposition Senator Alvaro Uribe shows a clip of a news article with a headline reading in Spanish “FARC puts a C4 collar around the neck of a Venezuelan,” after voting in a referendum to decide whether or not to support a peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels. VOA

Many “no” voters were genuinely offended that nearly all FARC rebels will avoid prison time for crimes allegedly committed during the uprising and get various financial support from the government..

They are also upset that FARC would be guaranteed seats in the Colombian congress without an election in exchange for transforming FARC into a political party.

Opponents to the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, celebrate as they listen to the results of the referendum to decide whether or not to support a peace accord to in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA
Opponents to the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, celebrate as they listen to the results of the referendum to decide whether or not to support a peace accord to in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA

Timochenko had publicly asked for forgiveness for whatever harm was committed by the rebels during the long uprising.

The FARC rebellion began as a simple peasant uprising in 1964 and soon grew into a major threat to various Colombian obtainments over the next five decades.

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, arrive in Yari Plains, southern Colombia, Sept. 25, 2016. VOA
Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, arrive in Yari Plains, southern Colombia, Sept. 25, 2016. VOA

“No more war,” declared President Santos in his remarks following Timochenko. “I welcome you to democracy, change weapons for votes and weapons for ideas.”

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

The conflict since the mid-1960s displaced millions of people and left more than 250,000 dead.

The FARC has agreed to cooperate with de-mining, an effort being led by the United States and Norway.

Counting ballots, Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (C. Mendoza/VOA)
Counting ballots, Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (C. Mendoza/VOA)

It used drug trafficking as a major source of funding. Kidnapping politicians and foreigners and holding them hostage in remote jungle hideouts was a FARC trademark.

The United States spent billions of dollars in military aid to help the Colombian government combat FARC and bring it to the negotiating table.

Supporters of the peace accord signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, follow on a giant screen the results of a referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace accord in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA
Supporters of the peace accord signed between the Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, follow on a giant screen the results of a referendum to decide whether or not to support the peace accord in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA

(VOA)