Voting Down the FARC Peace Deal Gives Colombia a Chance to Find Real Solutions

In an election, the popular sentiment is expressed in several ways. One of them is abstention (FARC-EP)
In an election, the popular sentiment is expressed in several ways. One of them is abstention. (FARC-EP)

EspañolOn Sunday October 2, Colombians rejected the peace agreement negotiated between President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC in Cuba.

The result was 50.21 percent in favor of No and 49.78 percent for Yes.

It might seem that the difference between the two positions is small, but it’s not. In an election the popular sentiment is expressed in various ways, one of which is to abstain from voting, and sixty-three percent of the population did not go to the polls. That means only 18 percent of Colombians supported the Yes. That is, a tiny portion.

It is impossible to attribute this attitude to indifference. The logical interpretation is that these people with their abstention issued a strong message to those who negotiated the deal: we do not trust it.

Cuba was the base of discussions, approval having been given by the Castro brothers who supported the agreement. Raul attended the signing of the final agreement in Cartagena. Chavez also backed the agreement. Considering how both regimes understand democracy, that endorsement should come as a warning.

Santos negotiated the deal having very low approval rates (around 29 percent). In many respects, the deal was negotiated at odds with the republican and democratic system of government.

One of the pillars of social peace is the guarantee that all are equal before the law. It is not correct to say that transitional justice will allow the pacification of the country. The law to “forgive all” done by the FARC is unlikely to be accepted by the victims and their families.

Its members are guilty of crimes against humanity, torture, sexual abuse and child recruitment _—infamies that surpass those committed by Latin American military dictatorships of the decades 1970-1980. Certain things are not forgivable.

President of the State Council Danilo Rojas said that transitional justice will bring legal uncertainty. He expressed concern about the future of the tutela (a special legal procedure to defend fundamental rights), and the concept of res judicata (the reparation of victims and other issues that may lead to conflicts of competence with respect to the ordinary courts).

Another message issued through the agreement was that crime pays, that it is good business. Someone can commit the most terrible atrocities and be rewarded for them. Writer, journalist and Colombian diplomat Apoleyo Plinio Mendoza wrote in an open letter to Mario Vargas Llosa about what FARC will get:

“They shall be exempted from going of jail despite the heinous crimes committed during over more than 50 years; they will have 26 effective seats in Congress, 31 radio stations, a TV station, a mighty budget for the dissemination of its ideological platform and occupy vast areas of concentration in the country, without the presence of the security forces, and actually become small independent socialist states to spread its socialist project.”

Mendoza also stated that “FARC is the third-largest drug cartel and is not going to give up its million-dollar business. The proof is that in the last two years of negotiation, coca crops have doubled in the country since the government abolished aerial spraying.”

The drug will effectively have its own representatives in parliament.

What democratic values arise from this agreement — to grant parliamentary seats unresponsive to popular vote?

Several of the attitudes of FARC leaders show their contempt for the democratic process. For them it is nothing more than a mechanism for obtaining total power in the manner of Hugo Chavez or other dictators. They accepted the referendum process, convinced people “yes” was going to win by a large majority, but demonstrated no genuine democratic conviction.

Top FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, alias’ ‘Timoshenko arrogantly declared that the result of the referendum has no legal effect and that it should be implemented despite adverse outcomes in the elections.

The agreement was negotiated between elites without participation of civil society. Peace was a widely cherished goal, but … at any price?

That feeling was exposed by the . She said:

“The feeling of the unfairness for the common Colombian of the agreement,” said Colombian Andrea Ardila, “for those who lived through atrocities, for those who in one way or another felt, there could not be crimes against humanity without minimally fair punishment.”

Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro,tweeted that “It is crucial that the peace process reach all Colombians, including the 60 percent who did not vote. We support inclusive dialogue. Peace is the work of everyone.”

Colombia’s failure to approve the agreement, then, is actually rather good news.

Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time