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Americas

Colombia signs new peace deal with FARC while critics cry foul

Text by David GORMEZANO

Latest update : 2016-11-24

The Colombian government and FARC rebels on Thursday signed a revised version of a historic peace agreement. The guerrilla army has made several important concessions, but opponents of President Juan Manuel Santos continue to reject the new accord.

Representatives of both sides worked quickly to amend the peace deal in Havana, which has taken more than four years of arduous negotiations to craft but was rejected by a narrow margin by Colombian voters in a referendum on October 2.

Less than six weeks later, on November 12, the government of Juan Manuel Santos and FARC unveiled the revised accord, which took stock of over 500 proposed changes to the original text. Around 65 percent of the initial 297-page document was amended, with FARC giving ground on several key points.

Tougher penalties

The special justice system that will be set up to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the half-century conflict will not include foreign judges, as the original accord specified. The “No” campaign, led by ex-president and current senator, Alvaro Uribe, urged that the special courts exist within Colombia’s existing legal system.

In the new accord, FARC and its members must provide an inventory of all their assets, which will be used to pay individual or collective reparations to victims of the protracted war.

All demobilised guerrillas must now also provide “exhaustive and detailed” information about the group’s relationship to the drug trade, a provision that could expose them to retaliatory measures by drug traffickers.

The document now specifies that “nothing in the accord should affect the constitutional right to private property.” It specifies that taxes on property will not be affected by the new accord, which was a major concern of the country’s wealthy landholders.

The new accord will not be incorporated into the Colombian constitution as FARC originally requested. The rebel army hoped for this move as a guarantee that current and future governments would comply with the accord. They must now rely on the state's good faith.

'No' camp defiant

Fearful of a country that is “more politically polarized than ever,” President Santos has decided to bypass another referendum vote and take the new peace plan directly to Congress, where it is likely to be approved.

The unexpected peace plan rejection last month has left in limbo thousands of guerillas who were supposed to start handing over their weapons to United Nations-sponsored monitors, with fears that a months-long ceasefire could break down.

In an act of protest, members of Uribe's political party are considering a boycott of next week's scheduled congressional debate on ratifying the agreement, accusing the legislature of disobeying the constitution. They're also threatening to call for street protests and civil disobedience to denounce what they say is a "blow against democracy."

“If they want to play rough, we have ways to play rough too,” Senator Paloma Valencia, an Uribe ally, told Colombian media this week.

Santos enjoys a solid majority in Congress, which could approve the revised peace deal as early as next week. He travels to Oslo on December 10 to receive his Nobel Peace Prize.

Date created : 2016-11-24

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