Street Beat: Colombians narrowly reject deal to end 52-year-long armed conflict

A supporter (left) and detractor (right) of the peace deal debate each other on the streets of the Colombian capital. (photo credit: Andalusia Knoll)

By a very slim margin, Colombian voters rejected a  peace agreement between the  government and the FARC, the nation’s largest rebel group, in a nationwide referendum vote on Sunday.  In Bogota and the majority of Colombian states that were most ravaged by war  voters approved the deal.  But nationwide the agreement failed by a 50.2 to 49.8 percent, the equivalent of around 61,000 votes. More than 60% of eligible voters abstained.

The peace deal, which took four years to negotiate and was signed early last week by FARC guerilla leaders and President Juan Manuel Santos, proposed to end 52 years of internal armed conflict. The peace process now enters a new phase of uncertainty, but for the time being both sides say they will maintain the ceasefire and look for a path forward.

FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll spoke to voters during the day outside of  Bogota’s main polling center, and at night in the capital’s main plaza after the results had come in.

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Ana Lucia Cruz: “I am a regular citizen and I voted ‘yes’ because I am convinced it’s right. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to know and explore many of the isolated places of Colombia, and that is where the war is. We as citizens of the capitals have the stupid capacity to say yes to the war and that we will vote for no when we don’t know how the campesinos are violently displaced by military groups, by the guerillas, by the paramilitaries and the soldiers.”

Edison Bello: “I voted ‘no’ because I want a different country, not one where the president is giving everything to the FARC. After everything they have done, they should serve out sentences or turn in their arms but not obtain seats in Congress or the Senate nor become president. This is what I want, a new country for Colombia and the peace starts with each one of us.”

Lino Baena Calle: “I am by profession a civil engineer. I voted for ‘yes’ and I voted absolutely convinced that this was the best option for Colombia and all of the people who make up the different regions of Colombia. Unlike other people, I believe that this agreement does not have fundamental problems. It is in line with international law and has all the concepts of transitional justice. What the agreement puts forth is well conceived in terms of social and political aspirations.”

Lorena Castro: “I must say that I am really happy because of the results as I voted ‘no’ and impunity is not here at all. So I must congratulate the people who voted ‘no’ and that accepted that justice must come sooner or later. Right?”

Wisthon Sanchez: “I am a system analyst. I voted ‘no’ because the FARC has always told me through their speeches that they were in favor of the people. That all the time they were fighting for the people, struggling for the people.  I didn’t see in this plebiscite something that they asked for the people. They had every opportunity to ask for something in favor of the people but I see they didn’t, they asked for everything in favor of them. They could have asked, for example, for lower gas prices – I would have voted in favor of that – or for lower taxes, better employment opportunities, or for the improvement of health services.”

Johana Moreno: “I voted yes. I am a business administrator. I come to vote very positively, very hopefully. My cousin was assassinated by the FARC a few years ago. He was a hiker in Colombia and a psychologist at the National University and he was assassinated by error. They went on television and said ‘we made a mistake, we killed eight hikers in the Purecé park.’ It hurts me, but hurts his mom more, the mom of this successful, brilliant son. My country hurts me, and what hurts me more is that we are not capable of saying no to the war, yes to peace.”

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