Colombia’s government and Marxist Farc rebels reached a final peace deal yesterday to end a five-decade war which once took the resource-rich country to the brink of collapse.
Under the historic agreement to end one of the world’s longest conflicts, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) will lay down arms and reintegrate into civilian life.
More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict, tens of thousands disappeared, and millions fled their homes because of the violence.
The accord, which was reached after almost four years of talks in Cuba, sparked celebrations in parks and bars in the Colombian capital, Bogota. It will go to a vote on October 2.
“Today I can say from the bottom of my heart that I have fulfilled the mandate that you gave me”, said president Juan Manuel Santos, 65, who was re-elected in 2014 on the promise of a peace deal.
“Colombians: The decision is in your hands. Never before have our citizens had within their reach the key to their future,” he said in a televised address.
Most opinion polls suggest Colombians will back the deal but Mr Santos, who has staked his legacy on peace, will face fierce opposition from powerful sectors of the country who believe the only solution is to finish the Farc militarily.
The deal is opposed by two former Colombian presidents, including popular right-wing hardliner Alvaro Uribe. In Bogota, several hundred people gathered around a giant screen in the rain to listen to the announcement, waving Colombian flags and banners.
“I’m so happy. It was time to end the war,” said Margarita Nieto, a 28-year-old accountant. “I know what is coming will be hard, but together we can cope.”
Others are more sceptical about the terms of the agreement, especially the participation of Farc rebels in politics and the fact they will not serve jail time for crimes committed during the war.
Under the deal, Farc will have non-voting representation in Congress until 2018 and can participate in elections. From then on, the 7,000 former rebels will have to win votes like any other political party, said Mr Santos.
The final text of the deal will be sent to Colombia’s Congress on Thursday and will be available on the internet and social media, he said.
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