Colombia to sign new peace deal with Farc rebels despite ongoing objections

Critics pushed back on the original peace deal, rejected just days after it was signed, saying it was too soft on guerrilla commanders responsible for war crimes

Colombia’s president and leftist Farc rebels are set to sign a revised peace agreement on Friday to end more than 50 years of conflict, despite continued objections by many who rejected the original accord in an October vote.

“We have to act,” President Juan Manuel Santos said, announcing the new signing. “We have no time to lose.”

Santos, who was awarded this year’s Nobel prize for peace, and Farc leader Rodrigo Londoño, known as Timochenko, will sign the modified document in Bogotá’s small but lavish Colón Theatre. The ceremony will lack much of the pomp and optimism of the original signing in the colonial city of Cartagena on 26 September.

Just days later, voters shocked peace deal promoters and detractors alike by rejecting the deal. Critics said the deal was too soft on guerrilla commanders responsible for war crimes and rewarded them by allowing them to run for public office, among a host of other objections. The outcome of the vote sent the peace process into a tailspin and negotiators back to the drawing board. They presented a new agreement on 12 November with modifications to more than 50 points.

Opponents of the peace deal maintain that the most crucial points were left unresolved, including eligibility for public office of those convicted of war crimes. “The issues that most worried us about the agreement are still there,” says Samuel Hoyos, a representative with the Centro Democrático party of former president Álvaro Uribe, who has led opposition to the peace process from the start.

Uribe said other critics of the peace deal wanted to see further revisions before it is signed and said they were disregarded. But political analyst Alejo Vargas, of the National University, says there is no more room for negotiation and that the critics would never have been satisfied.

“No peace agreement would have been good for them because they are playing politics with it with a view to the 2018 presidential elections,” he says.

And the government and Farc fear delaying implementation of the accord jeopardizes any possibility for peace to take hold.

After the results of the referendum nearly 7,000 Farc fighters who had been ready to begin their demobilization, were caught in legal and operational limbo. A ceasefire that went into effect on 29 September was extended but became more fragile by the day. Two guerrillas died on 13 November in a clash with government troops – details of which are still uncertain – and at least five land rights activists and leaders of leftist social movements were killed over the course of four days last week.

Santos said the attacks on civilians were evidence of the risks of not implementing the peace deal. “Every day that passes there is a risk of new incidents,” the president said. “Lives have been lost and there are many more at risk.”

The new accord will be sent to congress – where the majority favors the peace deal – for approval rather than risking another referendum, a move that critics say flies in the face of the popular vote. “It’s an arbitrary imposition [of the deal], stripping it of legitimacy,” says Hoyos. The government and Farc counter that they did listen to voters and made adjustments.

But Colombians are receiving the new deal with more resignation than jubilation.

“This is what there is. This peace or no peace,” tweeted analyst Sandra Borda with Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogotá, adding “No one can come out of this disaster with a sense of triumph.”


Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

The GuardianTramp

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