Five days have passed since the October 2nd referendum when 6,431,376 Colombians voted to reject the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP). The slim win of the “No” vote, by a margin of 54,000 votes, leaves the country in a highly polarized state.
On September 26 with the whole world watching, President Juan Manuel Santos quoted the national anthem, “The horrible night has ceased,” after signing the 297 page peace agreement with the FARC. The signing set at the historic city of Cartagena with heads of state and dignitaries from fifteen countries present was a symbolic and powerful move to sway a divided country to vote in favor of the agreement. In 2013, Santos proposed a referendum in hopes to seal the agreement with a public show of confidence. He promised a simple “Sí” or “No” question – “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and the construction of a stable and long-lasting peace?” – the country would take on the responsibility to ratify the agreement. It didn’t work.
By 5pm on October 2nd, an hour after the poll booths had closed the “No” vote was leading by 50,000 votes, securing them a victory by less than 1%. 13 million votes were cast of the 34 million eligible voters. The majority of “No” voters were based around cities – excluding the capital Bogotá – and the central Andean region that had benefited under the “democratic security policy” of the primary “No” campaigner, former president Alvaro Uribe. Uribe’s policy exacerbated the urban-rural divide making cities safer while pushing the conflict to their peripheries. Regions highly affected by the ongoing conflict overwhelmingly affirmed the agreement.
Winfred Tate, A Dark Day in Colombia, The North American Congress on Latin America
Greg Grandin, Did Human Rights Watch Sabotage Colombia’s Peace Agreement?, The Nation
Steven Cohen, Why Colombia Said No to Peace, The New Republic
Las víctimas votaron por el Sí, El Espectador
The Colombian church played a crucial role in the derailing and misconstrual of the public discourse to end a 52 year war. They argued that the “ideology of gender” was being imposed on the country when the negotiating table recently agreed to a differentiated approach for women and persons from the LGBTQI community as victims most affected by the conflict. It is estimated that 2 million of the 6 million voters who voted negatively were members of the church.
Over the course of the last two days information has been revealed that fraudulent electoral means was used by the opposition to garner its votes. The lead campaigner, Senator Juan Carlos Velez eventually resigned after having revealed the strategy of the opposition was not to counter the agreement negotiated but to enrage the electorate to vote in “fury and anger” by disinformation such as, “Voting yes is handing the country over to the FARC,” or “Vote no to prevent Colombia from becoming Castro-Chavista,” referring to Cuba and Venezuela.
Members of our partner organization, CAHUCOPANA, who organize small mining and farming communities in the hamlet of Carrizal – one of 23 demobilization zones – told us that the level of risk for human rights defenders in the area has risen considerably with the increased presence of paramilitary forces around the hamlet, and a growing presence of the ELN in areas already occupied by the FARC and the military. Soon after the FARC began moving its troops to the zones of demobilization the security panorama in the region began to shift with the incursion of paramilitary, or what the government calls BACRIM, into areas formerly controlled by the insurgents. When President Santos announced the expiry of the bilateral cease fire is the 31st of October, Pastor Alape, a high ranking commander of the FARC and member the negotiating team ordered his troops to retreat in order to avoid provocations. The possibility of conflict is between the other illegal armed groups and the FARC, and lesser so the military.
Adam Isaacson and Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, A Post-“No” Recovery Requires Quick Action and Realism About What is Achievable, Washington Office on Latin America
Omar G. Encarnación, Colombia’s Failed Peace: Why It Failed, and What Comes Next, Foreign Affairs
Since the 3rd of October the opposition began meeting with the president to come to an consensus regarding modifications in the signed agreements. In a joint press release, the FARC and the government reiterated their position to maintain the bilateral ceasefire agreement and to extend the role of the United Nations in the implementation and verification of the agreement. Affirming the democratic process they said, “it is important to listen to all sectors that did not vote yes at the polls.”
Multitudinarias marchas convocadas por estudiantes universitarios y la sociedad civil clamaron por la paz en todo el país. En Bogotá se presentó la más grande de ellas, donde más de 20 mil personas con velas y antorchas cantaron arengas pidiendo el fin de la guerra. Video realizado por los fotógrafos de @eltiempo #Peace #Paz #NoMasGuerra #Farc #Dialogos #Marcha #Bogotá #film #filmmaker
Two nights ago Colombia saw one of its largest marches organized by university students. Over the next few weeks we expect to see civil society organizations demonstrate and demand their place at the table of renegotiations.
Despite the polarizations, misinformation and uncertainty there is a firm energy of voices emerging, hashtagging and shouting #AcuerdoYA – “Agreement Now.” People are tired of the of the war. It’s time to end it.