Colombia referendum: Voters reject Farc peace deal

Image copyrightAFPImage caption
Voters in Colombia have rejected a landmark peace deal with Farc rebels in a shock referendum result, with 50.24% voting against it.

Da BBC, 2 de Outubro, 2015

The result of the vote was much closer than expected and shocked many Colombians

The deal was signed last week by President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez after nearly four years of negotiations.

But it needed to be ratified by Colombians in order to come into force.

Farc rebels had agreed to lay down their weapons after 52 years of conflict to join the political process.

President Santos has previously warned that there is no plan B for ending the war, which has killed 260,000 people.

With votes in from more than 99% of polling stations counted, 50.2% opposed the accord while 49.8% supported it - a difference of less than 63,000 votes out of 13 million ballots.

Image copyrightINPHOImage captionThe deal would have brought an end to one of the world's longest-running insurgencies

Turnout was low at less than 40%.

The surprise result means the peace process is now shrouded by uncertainty.

It is a major setback to President Juan Manuel Santos, who since his election in 2010 had pledged to end a conflict blamed for displacing about eight million people.

Less than a week ago, President Santos was celebrating with world leaders and Farc commanders the end of Latin America's last and longest-running armed conflict at a ceremony in the historic city of Cartagena.

Image copyrightAPImage caption

Some people began celebrating as soon as it was clear the no vote had prevailed in the referendum

Image copyrightAPImage caption

Supporters of the peace deal with Farc rebels were left dumbfounded by the referendum result

The rebels were making plans to lay down their weapons and become a political party within six months.

But the president is now facing one of the most difficult moments in Colombia's recent history, says the BBC's Americas Editor Leonardo Rocha.

If he sticks to his word about there being no plan B, the bilateral ceasefire will be lifted and the war will resume, our correspondent says.

Opposition to the peace accord was led by influential former President Alvaro Uribe. He argued that the government was treating Farc too leniently.

He said that if the 'no' vote prevailed, the government should go back to the negotiating table.

Correspondents say that the government had been accused of taking victory for granted.
The Farc's 52-year fight

Image copyrightREUTERS

1964: Set up as armed wing of Communist Party

2002: At its height, it had an army of 20,000 fighters controlling up to a third of the country. Senator Ingrid Betancourt kidnapped and held for six years along with 14 other hostages

2008: The Farc suffers a series of defeats in its worst year

2012: Start of peace talks in Havana

2016: Definitive ceasefire

The 297-page peace deal is a deeply divisive issue in Colombia.

Many in the country unambiguously detest the Farc, which the US still considers a terrorist group.

Many of those opposed to the deal were angry that it would have spared the rebels time in prison when they were responsible for so many deaths and displacements.

The government tried to offset these concerns throughout the referendum campaign by spending heavily on television adverts in addition to staging concerts and peace rallies throughout the country in a bid to get people out to vote.

It called on the support of U2's Bono and former Beatle Ringo Starr - and for the first time in an election made ballots available in Braille so blind Colombians could vote.

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