Photographer: Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg

Colombia Reaches New ‘Final’ Peace Agreement With FARC Rebels

  • First peace deal was rejected by voters in Oct. 2 referendum
  • FARC rebels fought for 50 years for Cuban-style revolution

Colombia’s government has reached a new agreement with Marxist guerrillas to end the nation’s civil conflict, six weeks after voters unexpectedly rejected a previous deal.

Under the terms of the modified accord, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will compensate victims of the conflict using their own assets, and won’t be able to take any of the special “transitory” seats in Congress while the deal is being implemented, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday in a national address. The FARC will still be allowed to form a legal political party and run for Congress, he said. Santos didn’t say whether the deal will be put to a second plebiscite.

The deal aims to address some of the objections of opponents of the original agreement. The government has held weeks of talks with leaders of the “no” campaign, including former President Alvaro Uribe, who attacked the agreement as too lenient on a group that kidnapped and murdered Colombians.

“We hope this work satisfies those from the ‘no’ campaign and the nation,” Santos said. “We hope peace allows us to unite as a nation, and seize with both hands the opportunities that tranquility, security and unity bring.”

The agreement clarifies the conditions under which FARC leaders would be deprived of their liberty, the government’s chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle said in Havana, where the peace talks took place. The pact also makes clear its respect for the right to private property, and will be fiscally sustainable, he said.

Senator Armando Benedetti, a member of Santos’s ‘U’ Party, said in posts on Twitter that under the agreement, FARC leaders will be confined to areas no bigger than a hamlet, monitored by the UN. Uribe had said the original texts gave leaders effective impunity.

Uribe met with Santos earlier on Saturday and afterward told reporters in an air base in western Colombia that he asked that the new agreement “not be definitive,” adding that he and other opposition leaders want to review the text, which is still not public. Uribe has called for tougher penalties for FARC leaders guilty of serious crimes.

Legally, Santos doesn’t need to call a second plebiscite in order to implement the pact, and one senior Senator appeared to suggest that lawmakers will implement it.

“Congress is ready,” said Mauricio Lizcano, head of Congress and part of the government’s ruling coalition, in a video posted on Twitter. “We are ready to implement and approve these agreements.”

Voters’s rejection of the original deal by 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent left the FARC in limbo, unable to begin the demobilization process and hand over their weapons to the UN. This cast a shadow over the Andean nation, generating uncertainty over whether there would be a return to all-out war. Despite this, the bilateral ceasefire that was part of the original agreement has held.

Terrorist organization

Formal peace talks between the Santos administration and the FARC started in Cuba in November 2012. Over 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in conflict, with millions more displaced from their homes.

The FARC, labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., sought a Cuban-style revolution for Colombia, and mainly operated in remote mountainous and heavily forested regions, ambushing army patrols and blowing up oil pipelines. The government was never able to defeat the group, which has about 6,000 fighters.

The U.S., which had provided military and intelligence support in Colombia’s battle with the FARC, has backed the government’s efforts, and last month Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to end the conflict.

“After 52 years of war, no peace agreement can satisfy everyone in every detail,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an e-mailed statement. “The United States, in coordination with the Government of Colombia, will continue to support full implementation of the final peace agreement.”

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