- The new agreement to end Latin America’s longest insurgency was put together in just over a month after the original pact — which allowed the rebels to hold public office and skip jail — was narrowly and unexpectedly defeated in an October 2 referendum
Colombia’s Congress approved a new peace deal with Farc rebels late on Wednesday, despite objections from former president and now Senator Alvaro Uribe, who said it was still too lenient on the insurgents who have battled the government for 52 years.
The agreement was approved in the lower house by 130-0, a day after the Senate ratified it 75-0. Lawmakers from Uribe’s Democratic Center party left the floors of both houses in protest just before voting began.
The ratification — and signing last week — begins a six-month countdown for the 7,000-strong Farc, which started as a rebel-lion fighting rural poverty, to abandon weapons and form a political party.
President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono signed the revised accord last week in a sober ceremony after the first deal was rejected in a national plebiscite.
Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October for his peace efforts, wants to get the deal implemented as quickly as pos-sible to maintain a fragile ceasefire.
Uribe’s supporters argued the deal offered too many concessions to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, and did not serve as a deterrent for other groups involved in crime.
“Let’s not forget what we are doing today, we’re trying to end more than 50 years of war,” government negotiator Sergio Jaramillo said.
The new agreement to end Latin America’s longest insurgency was put together in just over a month after the original pact — which allowed the rebels to hold public office and skip jail — was narrowly and unexpectedly defeated in an October 2 referendum.
While the government says the accord includes most of the proposals put forward by those who rejected it, the new document did not alter those two key provisions. That angered many among Colombia’s largely conservative population, who are also furious that Santos decided to ratify the deal in Congress instead of holding another plebiscite.
The government and Farc worked together in Cuba for four years to negotiate an end to the region’s longest-running conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions in the Andean nation.
Even with a peace deal finally passed, the path ahead may not be as smooth as Santos and the Farc would like. They await a crucial constitutional court decision, expected in the coming days, on whether Congress can use “fast track” authority in passing 30 or more enabling laws to implement the deal.
An end to the war with Farc is unlikely to end violence in Colombia as the lucrative cocaine business has given rise to criminal gangs and traffickers.
About 300 United Nations monitors are in Colombia and prepared to oversee the relocation of rebels and their disarmament. They will collect and store the rebels’ weapons in locked cargo containers until the accord is fully implemented.
The deal could raise the curtain on a new era of peace. Conversely, the political divisions in Colombian society could make it difficult for Santos to get the billions of dollars in funding he needs to implement the deal.