Colombia rejects FARC peace treaty

Aidan Denehy, Opinion Editor

On Oct. 3, 2016, the people of Colombia rejected in a plebiscite vote a peace treaty with the rebel organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continuing a civil war in that country which has been ongoing for more than 50 years at the cost of about 260,000 lives. The proposed treaty was declined in a vote which resulted in 50.2% opposed, with 49.8% in favor. FARC, which is recognized by the United States as a terrorist group, represents communist elements in Colombia and is comprised of at least several thousand revolutionaries.

Since the referendum, the ceasefire between the Colombian government and the rebel group has been maintained, and peace talks are expected to continue. Indeed, many of those who voted in opposition, including the opposition leader, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, said that they would like a formal peace agreement, but they feel that the terms of the current peace treaty are too lenient. Some of the terms of the proposed treaty included almost full amnesty for admitted rebels, guaranteed 10 seats to the FARC party in the Colombian legislature during the next election, and offered financial assistance to former rebels looking to return to regular life and start up a business.

The Crier spoke to Professor Jaime Orrego, of the Spanish department, who is currently on sabbatical in Colombia as to what he thought about the results of the vote. When we asked why Orrego felt Colombia had rejected the treaty, he responded, “I think there was a lot of misinformation about the peace agreement.  Some people have claimed that the opposition was corrupted by lies. Some international analysts have compared the Brexit with the Colombian Referendum because it is believed that many voted “No” in Colombia without actually knowing the entire agreement.”

Many areas which have seen heavy fighting during the Civil War were also the ones who voted more in favor of the agreement; according to the BBC, the town of Bojaya, which suffered a terrorist attack where 119 were killed, voted 96% in favor of the treaty. Professor Orrego said, “I supported the agreement. I know it is not perfect and it gives thing to Guerrilla members that I wouldn’t want to give, but it is the first agreement we have [had] with them in more than fifty years, and I believe we Colombians have to think about the future. The treaty is about our future, not about our past. When we look at the statistics about the vote on October 2nd, one can see that the areas that have been historically more affected by the war voted for the approval of the treaty.  So I find it very interesting that those who have actually lost family members are willing to forgive and end the war.”

However, Colombia’s future is still very much up in the air. As of right now, peace talks could fail, and the civil war could once again resume; however, this looks unlikely. Peace talks continue, and hopefully will succeed. As Professor Orrego said in his interview, “Regarding if I see an end to it, I want to say that I am very disappointed with the results in October 2nd. I am saddened [by] how unforgiving we can be in Colombia.  I realize that FARC has done horrible things, but I believe that if one less person dies because of the peace agreement…. everything was worth it.”