Colombian Peace Talks Fail to Garner Public Support, Poll Shows

  • Survey finds that 50% of Colombians would reject peace deal
  • Agreement would end half a century of Marxist insurgency

As Colombia stands on the threshold of a historic peace accord with Marxist guerrillas to end a five-decade insurgency, an opinion poll shows half the population would reject the agreement.

According to a survey by Ipsos Napoleon Franco and published in Semana magazine, 50 percent of Colombians would vote "no" in a plebiscite to ratify the accord currently being negotiated in Cuba. Another 39 percent would back the agreement and 11 percent are undecided.

A deal would bring an end to a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. If, after four years of talks in Havana, voters now reject the agreement, there will likely be a sell off in Colombian assets, said Camilo Perez, an analyst at Banco de Bogota.

“At the moment, the base scenario for local and foreign investors is that the peace deal will go ahead,” Perez said in a phone interview. “If it’s rejected, one of the positive factors that investors are seeing in Colombia disappears, and that will have an adverse impact on bonds and the peso.”

The poll of 1,000 people was carried out in 13 cities between July 30 and Aug. 2, and has margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Price of Peace

The government signed a cease-fire agreement with the FARC in June, to be implemented once a full peace accord is reached later this year. Peace will add 1 percentage point to Colombia’s economic growth, and boost spending on health and education, according to the finance ministry. 

Fears that guerrilla leaders will go unpunished for serious crimes, and lack of transparency about the exact terms of the agreement have left many Colombians unconvinced, according to Jorge Restrepo an economics professor at Universidad Javeriana and director of the CERAC research institution that specializes in armed conflicts.

Former President Alvaro Uribe said last week that his Democratic Center party will campaign for a “no” vote in the plebiscite, saying that people “want peace, but reject impunity.”

The government has pledged an “ample” amnesty for political crimes, but said there won’t be impunity for crimes against humanity committed during the conflict, including forced displacement, kidnapping, massacres, torture and rape.

The Government and the FARC have reached partial agreements in themes as agricultural reforms, political participation and bilateral cease-fire, there are some remaining points to be negotiated such as rebels’ disarmament following concentration in camps across the country.

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