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The People of Colombia Turn Down Peace Treaty

October 4, 2016
Plain English Version
Colombians celebrating the defeat of the peace treaty with FARC.

Colombians celebrating the defeat of the peace treaty with FARC. Photo credit: Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press.

The vote shocked everyone. A treaty to end a 52-year war was turned down by the Colombian people. A referendum took place on Sunday. The vote was 49.8 percent for the treaty. It was 50.2 against the treaty.

Most of the polls predicted the treaty would pass. It was a big defeat for the president of Colombia. He is Juan Manuel Santos.

What is the background? The rebel group was the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC.) They were leftist fighters in the image of Fidel Castro.

They fought the government over the last half-century. The reasons for the defeat of the vote have to do with history. FARC used kidnapping, torture, and murder to achieve its goals. It smuggled drugs to raise money.

Many voters said the treaty was too easy on FARC leaders. There would be trials for war crimes. But they would get light sentences and community service. The rebels would apologize for all the pain their actions caused. The rank-and-file fighters were likely to receive amnesty.

Thousands of families lost relatives and friends during the fighting. Many voters said there was not enough justice in the treaty. They said it was too easy on the rebels. One citizen said, “Why did they not turn in their arms? Why did they not tell the world what happened to the people they kidnapped?”

The people want more punishment. But they also want to end the fighting. A voter for the treaty said the country had no choice but to stop fighting.

The good news is that both sides said they would not return to war.

The agreement called for a program of closing camps and turning over weapons. The United Nations would help. The parties now are going back to the drawing board in Havana.

The war took so long. For a long time, the state could not defeat the enemy. Warlords ruled the countryside.

One observer said the people have “a massive case of post-traumatic stress.”

Source: The New York Times October 2, 2016

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