The Colombian public has voted by a narrow margin to reject the government’s peace deal with Farc, near-complete results show, delaying an official end to the war with the Marxist guerilla group that has spanned the last six decades.
The referendum vote came less than a week after Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a much-vaunted peace agreement with the Farc leader known as Timochenko, apparently resolving at last a conflict in which more than 200,000 people have been killed since 1964.
The signing ceremony, the culmination of four years of negotiations in Havana, was attended by world leaders including US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Raul Castro, the President of Cuba.
The European Union announced it would remove Farc – whose full name is The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – from its blacklist of global terror groups. “We must end a 52-year war and open the way to peace,” Mr Santos said as he cast his vote. “Peace is the way to ensure our children and grandchildren have a better country.”
Polls had previously suggested the peace deal would pass easily, but with more than 99 per cent of the vote counted, the public appeared to have decided against an end to the western hemisphere’s longest-running war by the slimmest of margins. Just 50.24% voted against and 49.75 per cent voted for the peace, according to near-complete results.
The accord would have seen some 7,000 Farc fighters giving up their weapons and re-integrating into Colombian civil society, along with 17,000 non-combatants also affiliated with the group, which was set to form a legitimate political party.
Yet many Colombians expressed discontent with the peace, given the human rights abuses perpetrated by both sides during the conflict: the guerrillas sexually enslaved women and kidnapped civilians for ransom; right-wing paramilitaries affiliated with the army were responsible for multiple extrajudicial killings.
The ‘No’ camp was led by the popular former president Alvaro Uribe, whose father was murdered by Farc. Mr Uribe expressed outrage that the deal permitted rebel leaders to enter the country’s parliament without serving jail sentences first.
Both sides have said they have no “Plan B” if the peace agreement is not ratified by the referendum.
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