Tuesday 6 December 2016

Colombian Congress approves new peace deal with FARC rebels

Published 01/12/2016 | 02:27

A man holds a banner that reads
A man holds a banner that reads "Yes to Peace" during a demonstration to demand the immediate endorsement of the new peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla outside the Colombian Congress in Bogota. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A woman shouts slogans during a protest against the new peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla, outside the Colombian Congress in Bogota. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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.

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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 Centre 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 rebellion 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 possible 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.

View of the Colombian Congress' house of Representatives during a session to endorse the new peace agreement signed between the government and the FARC, in Bogota. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
View of the Colombian Congress' house of Representatives during a session to endorse the new peace agreement signed between the government and the FARC, in Bogota. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, left, and FARC Commander Timoleon Jimenez shake hands in Havana, Cuba (AP)
Supporters of "Si" vote cries after the nation voted "No" in a referendum on a peace deal between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, ain Bogota, Colombia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino
Supporters of "No" vote celebrate after the nation voted "No" in a referendum on a peace deal between the government and FARC rebels, in Bogota, Colombia.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel leader Rodrigo Londono watches a live transmission of the referendum on a peace deal, in Havana, Cuba October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiator Pastor Alape (C) watchs a live transmission of the referendum on a peace deal, in Havana, Cuba October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel leader Rodrigo Londono smokes a Cohiba cigar while watching a live transmission of the referendum on a peace deal, in Havana, Cuba October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Opposition Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe reads a statement at his house in Rionegro, Colombia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Luis Benavides)
Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe during a press conference after the nation voted "No" in a referendum on a peace deal between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, in Rionegro, Colombia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes
Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe during a press conference after the nation voted "No" in a referendum on a peace deal between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, in Rionegro, Colombia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes
Patricia, a member of the 51st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), poses for a picture at a camp in Cordillera Oriental, Colombia, August 16, 2016. Picture taken August 16, 2016
Leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) patrol by a roadway near to San Vicente de Caguan January 9, 1999

"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 Oct. 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.

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.

Reuters

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