Colombia will begin revamping peace deal, but will guerrillas agree?

Residents react Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 during the ballot count for the peace agreement signed by the Colombian government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), in Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
Residents react Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 during the ballot count for the peace agreement signed by the Colombian government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. TNS

Colombia’s wounded peace deal may be in for a long recovery — if it survives at all.

Opponents of the peace pact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the 297-page document that took four years to hammer out needs to be revised in its entirety.

A delegation of opponents led by former President Alvaro Uribe met with President Juan Manuel Santos Wednesday in hopes of salvaging the deal, which was narrowly defeated at the polls Sunday.

While the delegates provided few specifics, they said the entire document, including hot-button issues like transitional justice and the guerrillas’ ability to participate in politics need to be revised.

“Every last comma needs to be up for discussion,” said former Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez.

We are very close to reaching peace. A stable and lasting peace with even broader public support.

President Santos

Emerging from the four-hour meeting, Uribe said he had shared his concerns that the peace deal, which was negotiated in Havana, Cuba, provided “total impunity” and political rights for “people responsible for crimes against humanity.”

“We shared the revisions and initial proposals that should be introduced into the Havana texts in order to find a new peace accord that all of Colombia can get behind,” Uribe said.

FARC leaders gather in central Colombia for the 10th conference to vote on the recently negotiated peace deal with the Colombian government.

On Sunday, in a national plebiscite, the country narrowly rejected the deal by a margin of less than 54,000 votes.

Under that deal, FARC members accused of serious crimes agreed to face “confinement” but would not serve prison sentences. Uribe has said that’s unacceptable, but the FARC has indicated that hard time is not negotiable. The deal also guarantees the FARC five seats in the House and Senate for two electoral cycles.

Uribe delegates will begin meeting with government representatives Thursday with the aim of generating proposals to present to FARC negotiators in Cuba.

Willing Partners?

So far, however, the FARC has said they’re unwilling to reopen the peace deal, which they unanimously approved Sept. 23 at their 10th Conference. On Wednesday night, tens of thousands of people marched in downtown Bogotá in support of the peace deal, waving white flags and holding candles.

Asked how long it might take to revamp the accord, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, one of the Uribe delegates, said the commission would be “swift without sacrificing the depth and care we need for this revision.” But he refused to say if it would be a matter of weeks or months.

Despite being one-time allies, Uribe and Santos had not held a face-to-face meeting since 2010, and expectations were running high about Wednesday’s event.

In a brief statement after the reunion, Santos thanked Uribe and said he was willing to work toward a more-inclusive deal. He also said that many of Uribe’s concerns could be resolved with minor edits and “clarifications” of the text.

“We are very close to reaching peace,” Santos said. “A stable and lasting peace with even broader public support.”

The FARC and the government have had a cease-fire in place for more than month, and while it’s set to expire Oct. 31, Santos said it could be extended to safeguard the talks.

But he also warned against foot-dragging.

“I want to insist the [revisions] be swift,” Santos said. “Maintaining the cease-fire and cessation of hostilities under the current conditions of uncertainty has many risks.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Santos Wednesday to express his support of “inclusive dialogue as the next step toward achieving a just and lasting peace,” agency spokesman John Kirby said.

Bernie Aronson, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process, is traveling to Havana at the request of negotiators, Kirby said.

The prospect of renegotiating what was considered a final deal is a bitter pill for Santos, who has staked his presidency on the agreement. He also thanked the international community for its continued backing.

There hasn't been active combat In Marquetalia, birthplace of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, for years, yet the rebels' presence is still felt. As the government and rebels hash out a peace deal in Havana, Cuba, villagers hope peace will bring progress.