COLOMBIA: Colombians reject peace deal. Why and what next?


11 October 2016
COLOMBIA: Colombians reject peace deal.  Why and what next?

by Caldwell Manners

A woman looks for her identification number on a chart at a local voting station in Barrancabermeja. (CPT/Caldwell Manners)

Nine days have passed since the 2 October referendum
when 6,431,376 Colombians voted to reject the peace agreement between the
government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army
(FARC-EP). The slim win of the “No” vote, by a margin of 54,000, leaves the
country in a highly polarized state.

On September 26 with the whole world watching,
President Juan Manuel Santos quoted the national anthem, “The horrible night
has ceased,” after signing the 297-page
peace agreement
with the FARC. The signing set at the historic city
of Cartagena with heads of state and dignitaries from fifteen countries present
was a symbolic and powerful move to sway a divided country to vote in favor of
the agreement. In 2013, Santos proposed a referendum in
hopes to seal the agreement with a public show of confidence. He promised a
simple “Sí” or  “No” question—“Do you support the final agreement to end
the conflict and the construction of a stable and long-lasting peace?” The
country would take on the responsibility to ratify the agreement. It didn’t work.

By 5:00 p.m. on October 2nd, an hour after the poll
booths had closed the “No” vote was leading by 50,000 votes, securing them a
victory by less than 1%. Thirteen million
were cast of the thirty-four million eligible voters. The majority of “No”
were based around cities— excluding the capital Bogotá—and
the central Andean region that had benefited under the “democratic security
policy” of the primary “No” campaigner, former president Alvaro Uribe. Uribe’s
policy exacerbated the urban-rural divide making cities safer while pushing the
conflict to their peripheries. Regions highly affected by the ongoing conflict
affirmed the agreement.

Winfred Tate, A Dark Day in
, The North American Congress on Latin America

Greg Grandin, Did Human Rights
Watch Sabotage Colombia’s Peace Agreement?
, The Nation

Steven Cohen, Why Colombia
Said No to Peace
, The New Republic

víctimas votaron por el Sí
, El Espectador

With a few exceptions, the Colombian Church played a
crucial role in the derailing the public discourse to end a 52-year war.
 Church leaders argued that the “ideology of gender” was being imposed on the
country when the negotiating table recently agreed to address the specific needs of women and persons from the LGBTQI community as victims most affected
by the conflict.  It is estimated that two million of the six million
voters who voted negatively were members of the church.

Ana Campoy, Gender identity, and other reasons
Colombians rejected their peace deal that had nothing to do with the peace deal

Over the course of the last two days information has
been revealed that fraudulent
electoral means
 were used by the opposition to garner its votes. The
lead campaigner, Senator Juan Carlos Velez eventually resigned after having
revealed the strategy of the opposition was not to counter the agreement
negotiated but to enrage the electorate to vote in “fury and anger
by disinformation such as, “Voting yes is handing the country over to the
FARC,” or “Vote no to prevent Colombia from becoming Castro-Chavista,”
referring to Cuba and Venezuela.

Members of our partner organization, CAHUCOPANA, who organize
small mining and farming communities in the hamlet of Carrizal—one of
twenty-three demobilization zones—told us that the level of risk for human
rights defenders in the area has risen considerably with the increased presence
of paramilitary forces around the hamlet, and a growing presence of the ELN in
areas already occupied by the FARC and the military. Soon after the FARC began
moving its troops to the zones of demobilization the security panorama in the
region began to shift with the incursion of paramilitary, or what the
government calls BACRIM, into areas formerly controlled by the insurgents. When
President Santos announced the expiration of the bilateral cease fire is the
31st of October, Pastor Alape, a high ranking commander of the FARC and member
the negotiating team ordered his
troops to retreat
in order to avoid provocations. The possibility of
conflict is between the other illegal armed groups and the FARC, and (less so)
the military.

Adam Isaacson and Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, A Post-“No”
Recovery Requires Quick Action and Realism About What is Achievable
Washington Office on Latin America

Omar G. Encarnación, Colombia’s
Failed Peace: Why It Failed, and What Comes Next
, Foreign Affairs

Since the 3rd of October the opposition began meeting
with the president to come to a consensus regarding modifications in the signed
agreements. In a joint press
, the FARC and the government reiterated their position to
maintain the bilateral ceasefire agreement and to extend the role of the United
Nations in the implementation and verification of the agreement. Affirming the
democratic process they said, “it is important to listen to all sectors that
did not vote yes at the polls.”

Last week, Colombia saw one of its largest marches organized
by university students. Over the next few weeks we expect to see civil society
organizations demonstrate and demand their
at the table of renegotiations. 

Despite the polarizations, misinformation and uncertainty there is an
energy of voices emerging, hashtagging and shouting #AcuerdoYA— “Agreement
Now.” People are tired of the war. It’s time to end it.


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