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Colombia Rejects Peace Treaty With the FARC

For the past 4 years, the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), also known as FARC, had been negotiating a peace deal that would end a 52-year war. On June 26 of this year, a ceasefire was signed and both sides agreed to a historic peace treaty to end the war. However, the final decision was determined by the public on a vote held on October 2nd.  To the surprise of many, according to CNN, the Colombian people voted ‘No’ to the peace treaty with a 50.22% vote to a 49.78% ‘Yes’.

Questions have arisen from this dramatic turn of events asking ‘why?’  To understand the situation more clearly, the violent history between the Colombian government and the FARC should be noted as it might explain why this happened. Origins states that the root of the conflict is known as ‘La Violencia’, a civil war between the liberals and conservatives, which began when the populist leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in the late 1940s. Then in the 1960s, the anti-communist repression that occurred in Colombia (which was backed by the United States), sparked the FARC group to rebel. The purpose of the FARC is to fight for the rights of the poor citizens and the oppressed; to protect them against the Colombian government and redistribute wealth throughout the country under a communist regime.

The Colombian officials recognize the FARC as a guerilla group and the U.S. has recognized them in their Foreign Terrorist Organization as a terrorist group. According to multiple sources,the FARC conflict with the Colombian government has resulted in over 250,000 deaths and about 6.9 million people have been displaced. To sustain themselves, CNN reports the FARC has recruited to kidnappings, ransoms, extortion, and drug trafficking.

But what agreements were laid out in the peace treaty?  According to The Washington Post, the Colombian Government, led by president Juan Manuel Santos, and the FARC leaders agreed on the FARC disarming their weapons, creating a political party where they would have 5 seats in the senate and 5 seats in the lower chambers, slowing down their drug trafficking, and addressing the human rights violations committed during the years of conflict. Former FARC members would also have receivied a large government stipend to start their own businesses. 

Most Colombians weren’t too pleased with these agreements as the past 52 years of violence can be hard for many people to just let go of and forget. Having a terrorist group be in the government as part of the senate made many people hesitant to vote ‘Yes’ to a peace treaty, due to lack of trust for the FARC. The New York Times interviewed several people who stated their reasons for voting ‘No’, as feeling the agreement was too lenient and that there was no justice in the accord and that voting ‘Yes’ would mean giving away the country to the guerrillas.

So what happens now? Well, that is still unclear in the eyes of many.  While the FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño, said that they are not interested in any more war, there are still challenges to be met in reaching another possible peace agreement. For now, the future of Colombia and the war against the FARC is still unknown.



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