Colombians vote against historic peace agreement with FARC rebels
BOGOTA, Colombia— Colombian voters have rejected a peace deal with FARC rebels, a surprise outcome that risks prolonging a 52-year-old armed conflict, and in doing so tossed the peace process into chaos.
By a razor margin of 50.25 to 49.75 percent, voters rejected the peace deal, a Brexit-style backlash that few were expecting.
After nearly six years of negotiations, many handshakes and ceremonial signatures, Colombia’s half-century war is not over. Not even close.
Surveys had predicted an easy win for the “yes” vote by a margin of 2 to 1. Instead the result delivers a crushing blow to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who since 2011 has pursued the peace deal with single-minded determination and to the steady detriment of his own popularity. He took an extraordinary risk by insisting that the accord — the product of tedious, grinding negotiations with the FARC-- would only be valid if Colombian voters gave their blessing.
They didn’t, and that failure has left Santos politically crippled. The president’s supporters began insisting that FARC leaders and government negotiators re-open the accord, but Santos had repeatedly warned Colombians that no such thing would be possible.
Sunday’s vote was also an extraordinary rejection of the guerrilla commanders of the FARC, who in recent months have tried to engineer a makeover of the rebels’ public image in preparation for an eventual return to politics. The outcome reveals the depths of Colombian public animosity toward the rebels, accumulated by decades of kidnappings, bombing and land seizures in the name of Marxist-Leninist revolution.
Sunday’s vote, for many Colombians, was about far more than a cease-fire with FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Many saw the country’s political and judicial integrity at stake, and the peace accord as a dubious giveaway to the rebels.
“I want peace, but not if it means kneeling down to the guerrillas,” said Bogota resident Piedad Ramos, 60. “Santos has divided and deceived the country.”