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Colombia peace accord hangs in the balance as ‘No’ camp reviews new text

Raul Arboleda, AFP | Colombian Senator Alvaro Uribe speaks during a press conference in the Antioquia department on November 12, 2016

The future of the new peace accord between Colombia and the FARC rebel group remained uncertain on Thursday as leaders who successfully campaigned against the original text postponed a key meeting with representatives of the government.


Senator Alvaro Uribe, a former president and staunch critic of the peace talks with the leftist guerilla group, requested that the first meeting with the government on the revised deal be delayed by a week, Colombian media reported.

Uribe and his allies in the Senate said they needed more time to study the new 310-page document, signed by negotiators in Havana over the weekend, and which includes numerous changes and concessions by the FARC leadership.

Colombian voters rejected the first version of the peace accord in an October 2 referendum, after an aggressive ‘No’ campaign led by Uribe and other conservatives, who slammed it as too soft on the country's largest rebel group.

The surprise result left President Juan Manuel Santos – who has staked his legacy on achieving peace – scrambling for a backup plan and tens of thousands of FARC guerillas in limbo.

On Thursday, two suspected FARC fighters were killed in northern Colombia in what could be the first violation of a bilateral ceasefire that has been holding since August.

New referendum ‘unlikely’

The revised peace accord has taken stock of over 500 proposed changes to the original draft, adding more specific language about punishment for former rebels convicted of crimes during the decades-long armed conflict, and disclosure of the FARC’s assets.

The political party that will replace the guerilla army still gets five automatic seats in Colombia’s 166-seat House of Representatives and five more in the 102-seat Senate in the revamped deal.

“The new text incorporates many of the concerns raised by ex-president Uribe and other members of the ‘No’ coalition. However, it neither incorporates them all nor gives them everything they wanted on what was added,” the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights group monitoring the peace negotiations, wrote on Wednesday.

It remains unclear if Uribe’s camp will accept the new accord or if the government will seek a new referendum to approve the peace plan.

“A second plebiscite vote hasn’t been ruled out, but it is unlikely because its preparation would take too much time,” WOLA said. “A more likely path is President Juan Manuel Santos submitting the accords to Colombia’s Congress for approval as a package of laws.”

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