This fall will mark three years since the Colombian Peace Accord between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC guerrilla group was ceremoniously signed in Havana, Cuba. It was unique for a variety of reasons: it ended the world’s longest-running civil war, it was signed with the world’s oldest guerrilla group (the FARC), and—what few know—is that it is also the first peace process that explicitly includes economic actors in the truth and accountability mechanisms to help the country transition to peace.
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When Colombians streamed to the polls four months ago to vote in a plebiscite to accept or reject a peace agreement with the country’s leading guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opinion polls predicted a resounding victory for the accord. Many citizens and internationals expected that the world’s second longest continuous armed conflict and one of its oldest Marxist insurgencies would soon become an historical relic.
In Havana, the FARC leadership and its negotiating team sat with journalists to watch the votes come in. Once the result was announced – the accord was rejected by less than one-half of 1 per cent – the guerrilla group retired to a private meeting at which its leaders decided the loss was only a temporary setback. “The FARC-EP maintains its will to find peace”, declared FARC leader Timochenko that same day, “and reiterates its willingness to use words as the only weapon to build a [new] future”.
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After almost four years of tough negotiations in Cuba, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement in Cartagena on 26 September 2016 to overcome five decades of armed conflict. While celebrated “as a model for future peace negotiations around the world”, later that week Colombians rejected the accords in a referendum by a 50.2% to 49.8% margin, a difference of just 54,000 votes.
Various articles have been written on the negotiation and mediation process, and the referendum as such. This article will focus on the internal developments within Colombia’s society, with a focus on what did not go well prior to the referendum and on positive post-referendum developments.
After six years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement to end one of the oldest and bloodiest wars in the country’s history. Although not required to do so by law, President Santos sought to legitimize the agreement by asking Colombians to either ratify or reject the agreement in a referendum. On October 2nd, the “NO” vote (rejecting the peace agreement with the FARC) won with 50.22% of the vote, taking the world—and most Colombians—by surprise.
The leaders of the NO campaign, the international media (see here and here), and a few scholars, have privileged an interpretation of the NO vote as a cry for justice. In recent days, representatives of the NO vote made harsher penalties to the FARC one of their central demands to support a modified agreement.