Expectations were running high Saturday that Colombian negotiators and the country’s largest guerrilla group will soon be announcing that they’ve reached a new peace deal that addresses the concerns of voters who rejected the initial agreement last month.
“The extraordinary effort made by both sides at the negotiating table will soon be rewarded with a definitive peace deal,” Iván Márquez, the chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, tweeted late Friday.
And on Saturday President Juan Manuel Santos held an “urgent” meeting with the chief critic of the original accord, former President Alvaro Uribe.
In a series of tweets, another chief critic, former presidential candidate Marta Lucía Ramirez, said Santos had called her Saturday to let her know that a new accord was ready. Later, she wrote on Twitter that she was waiting to read the new agreement so she could “react” to the details of the plan.
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Local media is reporting that an announcement will be made late Saturday in Havana, Cuba, where negotiators have been huddled trying to salvage the deal. But neither the presidency nor the guerrilla communications department have officially confirmed the news.
If a deal is struck, it will still need to be ratified either by congress or in a plebiscite. Santos has not indicated which path he will take, but it’s thought the legislative route will be more appealing after voters narrowly rejected the initial deal Oct. 2, in part because of fears that it was too lenient on guerrilla commanders.
The FARC have been fighting the Colombian state for more than half a century as part of a broader conflict that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and forced more than six million to flee their homes.
After losing last month’s plebiscite, Santos vowed to tweak the agreement to address voter concerns. While there were multiple reasons the deal was rejected, much of the criticism concentrated around two general issues:
Under the terms of the deal, guerrillas accused of serious crimes wouldn’t serve jail terms as long as they confessed to a truth commission and provided reparations to their victims. Instead, they would serve five to eight years of “effective restriction of freedom” — a term that would be defined by a special tribunal.
In addition, the FARC would be allowed to run for office. And during the first two electoral cycles, the group would be guaranteed five seats in both the House and Senate.
The FARC have suggested those two conditions — transitional justice and political participation —aren’t negotiable. And it’s unclear if or how they might have been modified under a new agreement.
If a deal comes through it would cap off a politically volatile few months for the Santos administration.
The FARC and the government agreed to a bilateral ceasefire Aug. 29 as a deal seemed all but certain. The following month, on Sept. 26, Santos and FARC Commander Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez signed-off on the accord at a high-profile event in Cartagena attended by dozens of regional leaders.
Then, on Oct. 2, voters defied polls and expectations and rejected the deal. Even so, five days later, Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize.