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COLOMBIA: Voters reject peace deal

Colombians have rejected a peace deal to end 52 years of war with FARC guerrillas, throwing the country into confusion about its future. The verdict on the deal between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, reached after four years of intense negotiations, means it cannot now be implemented.

Santos said he would send his negotiators back to Havana to meet with FARC leaders. “I will not give up,” he said in a televised address. “I will continue seeking peace until the last day of my presidency.” He added that the bilateral ceasefire that has been in place since 29 August would continue.

The FARC leader, Rodrigo Londono, said the insurgent group maintained its desire for peace despite the failure of the plebiscite to approve its recently signed deal with the government. “The FARC reiterates its disposition to use only words as a weapon to build toward the future…to the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us, peace will triumph”, said Londono.

Fernando Giraldo, a political analyst, said the fact that both the government and guerrillas reiterated their commitment to peace was a good sign but the future was unclear. “The plebiscite laid everything out in black and white and now we’re stuck in a grey area,” he said.

Under the agreement rejected by voters, the FARC’s 5,800 fighters and a similar number of urban militia members would be disarmed and become a legal political party. Whether or when that will happen now is unknown. The deal would have allowed rebel leaders to avoid jail if they confessed to their crimes such as killings, kidnappings, indiscriminate attacks and child recruitment, something that many Colombians found hard to swallow.

In a ceremony on 26 September, with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and a dozen Latin American leaders on hand as witnesses, Santos and Timochenko signed the deal that their negotiators had reached after four years of talks in Havana.

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