Congress ratifies peace accord with the FARC guerrillas
By Tatiana Rodriguez (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — The Colombian Congress ratified the new peace deal earlier this week, which the Government and the FARC signed last week and which began to be implemented on Thursday to put an end to the domestic armed conflict that the country has experienced for over half a century.
With 130 votes in favor and 0 against, the House of Representative ratified the approval which had kicked off the night before at the Senate, which also assessed the new document and voted unanimously in favor.
President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated this event and thanked Congress for their full support for the agreement which included 56 changes to the 57 key subjects with respect to the original text, which was rejected in a referendum vote on October 2nd.
“Colombia’s House of Representatives approves and supports the #NewAgreement. Thanks to Congress for their historic support of the Colombian people´s hope for peace,” Santos wrote on Twitter.
Previously, the leader and Noble Peace Prize winner estimated that after Congress’ approval, “the FARC would gather together in transition areas before this year ends” and trusts that this guerrilla group “will no longer exist” by May next year.
For his part, the High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo, highlighted the importance of having approved the 310 page document “urgently” so that both parties are able to start implementing what has been agreed.
“What has happened is very important and especially with this urgency that we have to pass this deal from paper to reality so that we can begin to fulfill its objectives as it has a great deal of support. Congress is committed to working very quickly on amnesty laws for those FARC members who haven’t committed heinous crimes,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Jaramillo confirmed that “D-Day”, which is cited in this agreement to define the beginning of the implementation process, “is tomorrow”, which means that the disarmament process of nearly 6000 members from The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will kick off immediately.
FARC members will group together at 27 specific points where they will stay for almost half a year, during which they will hand over their arms to the United Nations in previously established stages.
Furthermore, as of “D-Day”, the national mine clearance plan will also come into action, which both parties agreed on since March last year.
According to congressman Ernesto Macias, from the extreme right-wing party, the Democratic Center, which is led by former president Alvaro Uribe, Santos is “tricking” the Colombian people who said “no” in the referendum, “with his legislators’ complicity.”
The head of the Government´s negotiation team in this peace process, Humberto de la Calle, the Interior minister, Juan Fernando Cristo, several party senators and critics of the agreement as well as victims of the conflict, all participated in these peace deal talks.
Legislators from the Democratic Center left the facility on both occasions when the vote took place so as not to vote, as they had already anticipated the fact that they wouldn’t support the peace deal.
The Democratic Center is the only political group that disagrees with the peace deal with the FARC, and so the dominating center-right coalition, National Unity, had no problem in ratifying the agreement.
Santos and the highest FARC leader, Rodrigo Londono, signed the new agreement last Thursday, which included almost 500 amendment proposals that had been put forward by various political and social groups and which were then presented to the guerrilla group.
In the end, FARC accepted and reopened the negotiations process to make vital changes, although they did reject one condition that came from the extreme Right, which demanded that guerrilla fighters who had committed crimes would not be allowed to participate in politics or aspire to reach popular-elected positions.
Even though many of the amendments were accepted by the FARC, Uribe’s party rejected the new deal and said that they would vote against the ratification process in Congress, as the Government has dismissed a second referendum.
The peace process between the President and the FARC began in November 2012 in Cuba and after almost four years of dialogue, it was officially finally signed for the first time on September 26th in Cartagena only to be rejected by voters at the referendum in October