Colombia will get a fresh start at being a fully-functional country Monday when a ceasefire that took years to negotiate with Marxist rebels will go into formal effect.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced Thursday in front of the Colombian Congress that a permanent ceasefire between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC) rebels will take effect Monday. The ceasefire was successfully negotiated in June and a final peace deal between both sides was reached Wednesday after talks that stretched back to November 19, 2012.
FARC rebels have been at war with the Colombian government for over 50 years and Monday’s implementation of a ceasefire will bring an end to the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The peace deal will be formally signed in a ceremony “between 20 and 30 September.”
A deal between both sides will only truly be final if voters give it a thumbs up in a nationwide referendum which will be held Oct. 2. Santos said to Colombian voters in an address to the nation, ““I promised you that you would have the last word and so it will be.”
In a statement praising the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry said in part, “The United States strongly supports this accord that can achieve a just and lasting peace for all Colombians.” Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday, “Now Colombia must turn this agreement into a just and lasting peace. As President, I’ll ensure that the United States remains their partner in that process.”
Not everyone was pleased though by news of the deal which had been negotiated for years in Havana, Cuba with Norwegian mediators. Former Colombian President and now-Senator Alvaro Uribe of the Democratic Center Party opined that such a deal was the beginning of a decline that will be comparable to neighboring Venezuela or Cuba. Uribe said in part, “This is how [former Cuban President Fidel] Castro and [ late Venezuelan President] Chavez began. They let their people without food. Then they destroyed the industry, the entire economy, chased away businessmen and ruined the workers.”
Santos had previously served as Minister of Defense for Uribe from 2006 to 2009, when he was President of Colombia from 2002 to 2010. Uribe’s Democratic Center Party is actively campaigning against the deal in the upcoming referendum because he alleges it legitimizes the rebels who have funded their decades-long war through extensive drug trafficking, particularly cocaine trafficking.
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