Colombian voters reject peace deal to end 50-year war

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos casts his yes vote shortly after 8 a.m. in central Bogota on a peace agreement between the government and rebels. Photo by President of Colombia/Twitter

BOGOTA, Colombia, Oct. 3 (UPI) — Colombians rejected the new peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels in a Sunday referendum that would have ended a war that has lasted 52 years. The defeat was extremely narrow.

A surprising 50.22 percent of Colombians voted “no” Sunday, handing a major setback to President Juan Manuel Santos, whose involvement in the peace deal has already eroded his popularity.

With the no vote, Colombians have not rejected peace, only the peace deal as it currently stands. Santos said the tentative ceasefire will remain in place, and both sides will go back to Havana, Cuba, and continue to negotiate.

Colombians headed to the polls Sunday despite heavy rain from Hurricane Matthew to vote on the deal.

In parts of Colombia’s Caribbean, heavy rains delayed the opening of some voting locations. The national Attorney General’s office announced early Sunday that aside from weather delays, voting had “total normality” across Colombia.

Some 34.8 million citizens are eligible to vote “Yes” or “No” on the agreement between President Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group. At least 13 percent of eligible voters — or 4,536,993 Colombians — must approve the deal for it to pass.

The referendum would allow Colombia to “end a 52-year war, opening the path for peace, and peace will take us to a better future,” Santos said.

“In spite of the rain and the bad weather in some places, Colombians can be — and should be — the protagonists of this historic change for our country,” the president said while holding an umbrella after voting shortly after 8 a.m. in central Bogota.

Last Monday, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, also known as “Timochenko,” signed the agreement ending the civil war.

The agreement was signed in Cartagena, Colombia, after nearly four years of talks in Havana.

The agreement includes a timetable for the FARC to stop fighting and become a legal political organization. An international verification mechanism also will be established to ensure that both sides fulfill the agreement.

Ex-president Alvaro Uribe supports the “no” vote.

According to a poll by Datexco released late last month, the “yes” vote was favored over “no” by a margin of 55 percent to 37 percent.


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