Colombia tries for peace a second time

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Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks in the country's capital Bogota on Nov. 12. Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos speaks in the country’s capital Bogota on Nov. 12. Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Negotiators from Colombia’s government and main rebel group published the full text of their revised peace accord on Monday, after voters rejected the terms of an earlier deal.

The government’s lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said the modified deal is “much better,” but did not indicate whether leaders would risk another referendum or seek ratification in congress.

Cynthia Arnson, director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, says it is “unlikely” the government will take the deal back to the people for a yes-or-no vote. The lack of direct public approval will “complicate the effort to implement the accord, which was always the more difficult phase,” she said.

The original peace accord, tasked with ending 52 years of war, failed in the Oct. 2 plebiscite by roughly 55,000 votes.

President Juan Manuel Santos, honored with the Nobel Peace Prize mere days after the rejection of the first deal, had negotiators working overtime to revive the precarious peace.

“We worked 15 days and nights to reach this new agreement,” de la Calle said.

The changes to the deal, which Santos pitched to Colombians on television over the weekend, intend to address specific objections of leading “no” campaigners like former President Álvaro Uribe.

The victorious no voters “gave additional power to the government to insist on additional FARC concessions,” Arnson said. But in doing so, the government “refused the opposition’s request to have a seat at the table.”

Concessions include a “more verifiable and restrictive confinement for FARC fighters that committed human rights violations,” Arnson said.

Many of the revisions, however, are clarifications and reassurances in places where the previous text was vague, not of a fundamental nature.

As the full details began to circulate Monday, it appeared some of the deal’s most criticized provisions remained in the 310-page document.

A main point of dispute was over the degree of impunity former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas would receive as they transition back to public life.

Some “no” voters recoiled at the idea that the former Marxist militants would be allowed to hold political office. The FARC refused to accept a ban on running for office.

The wider international community, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, strongly supports a final resolution to Colombia’s peace process. In a statement, Secretary Kerry touts the deal’s renewed merits, saying it benefitted from “many hours of discussion between supporters and critics of the original Peace Accords.”

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