Colombia Reports

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Colombia’s Congress on Monday approved a government-supported bill that seeks popular ratification of a pending peace deal with FARC rebels through a plebiscite. 

The proposed bill was supported by all parties in President Juan Manuel Santos’ centrist coalition, the opposition Conservative Party on the right and the Green Party and the Democratic Pole on the left.

The only party voting against the bill was the conservative Democratic Center party, which has rejected peace talks since they began and — under the leadership of former President Alvaro Uribe — has consistently criticized concessions made during the peace negotiations.

“It’s remained very clear that the president of the Republic will be the one to convoke the plebiscite with the signatures of all the ministers, that it will be a one-day vote, that the threshold will be 13% of the electoral census for it to be valid, and that there will be equity and equality for those who promote the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’” vote, summarized Senator Armando Benedetti of the coalition U Party.

According to Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo, the vote should be held within half a year, assuming that the talks are able to successfully tackle the last point on the agenda, “End of Conflict,” before the March 23 deadline.

Both the government and the FARC announced Monday they had reached an agreement on the penultimate point, Victims, which will be publicly presented on Tuesday.

FARC announces deal over victims of Colombia’s armed conflict

“We hope that before the end of the first semester of the coming year Colombians can go to the ballot box,” Cristo said.

According to the minister, the full content of the deals will have been made public well before the vote, allowing Colombians to know exactly what they are voting for or against.

So far, the negotiation teams have made excerpts of partial deals public, but these excerpts in some cases still had blanks.

According to a poll released on Monday, the majority of Colombians said they would vote in favor of peace with the FARC.

Some 59% of people polled by Cifras y Conceptos said they would take part in the vote against 36% who said they would not.

Of those who said to take part in the vote, 61% said they would vote in favor of the still partially unknown deal. No more than 11% said they would turn down a deal with the FARC.

The armed conflict between the FARC and the state has lasted since 1964 and cost more than 260,000 lives according to official figures. In total, more than 14% of the Colombian population has been victimized in the conflict, mainly through forced displacement.

While a peace deal with the FARC would end violence between the country’s longest-living rebel group and the state, it does not necessarily mean Colombia will be at peace.

The country’s second largest illegal rebel group, the ELN, has yet to agree to formalize talks with the government. Neo-paramilitary forces who formed from the formally demobilized far-right paramilitary group AUC have made major territorial expansions over the past years and have become the country’s primary human rights violators.

As FARC prepares to demobilize, neo-paramilitaries settle in rebel territory

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Colombia Reports