People throughout the world celebrated the signing of an unprecedented peace accord between the Columbian government and the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARQ). However, the agreement would not be final until ratified by the Colombian people at the polls on October 2, 2016.
To the shock of casual observers, the citizens and expatriates of Colombia narrowly voted against the peace accord by a 0.5% margin. As described by Omar G. Encarnacion in the publication Foreign Affairs, Colombian citizens had numerous reasons to reject the accord.
Enarnacion described the “deep loathing of the FARC” among the people of Columbia. The FARQ’s terrorist campaign wrecked havoc on the country. Almost one quarter of a million people died during the conflict, while an additional 6 million were driven from the countryside to the cities. Millions more fled Colombia.
The FARQ’s activities in recent years seemed to be motivated more by greed and avarice than by revolutionary efforts to bring justice to Colombia. With the boom of coca production in the country, the FARC introduced a “revolutionary tax” on the cartels to finance its terrorist activities. Some estimates suggest that about 60% of the cocaine entering the US can be traced to the FARQ. This provided impetus for the US involvement to help negotiate the peace accord.
Another major reason for rejecting the accord had to do with the policy of sparing prison sentences for even the worst human rights transgressors. After 50 years of murders, bombings, extortions, illegal land seizures, and kidnappings, many Colombians felt that the terrorists deserved more than a slap on the wrist.
Third is a “dearth of consensus” on the merits of the peace accord among the country’s leading political forces. Peace is paramount among some members of the political class, while justice is a higher priority for others. This discord at the highest levels of government made it difficult for the citizens of Colombia to reconcile their own doubts and concerns. These differences must be reconciled before negotiations can end Latin America’s “endless war.”