Colombian do-over: Santos, FARC to sign new peace pact

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Rodrigo Londoño, shake hands after signing a peace agreement Sept. 26, 2016. That deal ultimately failed, but the two men will be signing a revised accord on Thursday.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Rodrigo Londoño, shake hands after signing a peace agreement Sept. 26, 2016. That deal ultimately failed, but the two men will be signing a revised accord on Thursday. Associated Press

Two months ago, President Juan Manuel Santos and the head of the country’s largest guerrilla group signed off on a historic peace deal at a glamorous celebration in Cartagena attended by a dozen world leader and hundreds of spectators.

It was hailed around the world and earned Santos a Nobel Peace Prize, but Colombians weren’t impressed. They shot it down just days later in a narrow vote.

On Thursday, Santos and the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Rodrigo“Timochenko” Londoño will get a do-over. This time, they’re signing a revised peace pact on short notice and with little fanfare in the nation’s capital. And it won’t be subject to a national vote. Instead, it will be ratified by congress, where Santos enjoys a healthy majority.

Despite the scaled-down event, the deal itself is ambitious: It aims to turn the hemisphere’s oldest and bloodiest guerrilla army into one more political party. In the process it hopes to take a step toward ending a half-century conflict that has cost more than 220,000 lives.

Round two

After the initial deal was shot down during an Oct. 2 plebiscite, government negotiators spent 40 days crafting the new accord, holding round-the-clock meetings with their critics and the guerrillas. Despite the effort, it hasn’t appeased opponents, who claim the deal is still too lenient on the FARC.

The Centro Democrático party, led by popular former President Alvaro Uribe, is accusing the government of negotiating in bad faith, and only making superficial changes to the original accord.

Among their complaints is that FARC commanders accused of genocide and other war crimes can avoid jail if they go before a truth commission, provide reparations to their victims and serve five- to eight-year alternative sentences that consist of being confined to areas as large as a neighborhood or small village.

During that time, they can also run for office. The guerrillas’ new political party will be guaranteed five seats in the House and Senate during the first two electoral cycles beginning in 2018.

Uribe and others say Colombians should get a chance to vote again on this new deal, rather than have is approved by a compliant congress.

“The government preferred to impose [the deal] and divide Colombians rather than create a national accord that would bring us closer together,” the party said in a statement.

Ticking clock

For his part, Santos has said any more delays could mean more bloodshed. Over the last few weeks, there has been in an up-tick in violence against community leaders who backed the peace deal. And a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC ends Dec. 31.

“We’ve lost lives and there are many more in danger,” Santos said Tuesday. “We couldn’t forgive ourselves if we didn’t act promptly and firmly to correct this situation.”

Santos is also facing another deadline. On Dec. 10, he’s traveling to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize. During that European trip, he’s also expected to meet with Pope Francis who has said he would come to this Andean nation as long as a deal was in place.

The 310-page accord is sweeping in its scope, with chapters on rural and agricultural reform, allowing the guerrillas to participate in politics, and laying out guidelines for the FARC to help end drug-trafficking and make reparations to their victims.

The day after the agreement is ratified in congress, the FARC’s estimated 7,000 fighters are expected to make their way to 27 concentration zones. There, they will begin handing over their weapons to a U.N. verification force and receive training. Six months later, Latin America’s last viable guerrilla soldiers will emerge from the camps as the nation’s newest civilians.


▪  May 27, 1964: The FARC is “born” after Colombian forces, with U.S. backing, attack the independent “Republic of Marquetalia” where Manuel Marulanda and his guerrilla band are ensconced.

▪  1966: Marulanda’s groups adopts the name of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

▪  1982: Having gained ground in rural areas, the FARC become more aggressive, engaging troops closer to cities and populated areas.

▪  1984: The FARC and the Belisario Betancur administration sign a cease-fire. That same year, the FARC launch the Patriotic Union political party, which wins dozens of local council seats and spots in congress and the senate.

▪  1987: UP presidential candidate Jaime Pardo is assassinated — one of more than 1,500 UP officials who would be murdered. The cease-fire ends as both sides accuse each other of acting in bad faith and violating the truce.

▪  1998: The FARC stage large scale attacks, taking over the towns of Mitú and Miraflores.

▪  1998: The Andrés Pastrana administration clears military out of a 26,000-square-mile area as a precursor to peace talks.

▪  1999: Peace talks in the Caguán demilitarized zone begin.

▪  Feb 20, 2002: Peace talks break down after the FARC hijack a commercial jetliner to kidnap a senator who is aboard. Three days later, they kidnap presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

▪  April 2002: The FARC kidnap a dozen state legislators from Cali; 11 of them are eventually killed.

▪  Feb 3, 2003: U.S. contractors Marc Gonsalvez, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes are taken hostage after their anti-narcotics plane crashes in FARC territory.

▪  March 1, 2008: The military kills FARC leader Raúl Reyes in a controversial cross-border raid into Ecuador.

▪  March 26, 2008: FARC founder Manuel Marulanda dies of a heart attack at 78.

▪  July 2, 2008: A daring military operation called “Check” frees 15 FARC hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt and the three U.S. contractors.

▪  Sept. 2010: The military kills FARC military strategist “Mono Jojoy.”

▪  Nov. 2011: The military kills FARC Commander Alfonso Cano.

▪  Nov. 2012: The government and the FARC begin peace talks in Havana.

▪  May 27, 2014: The FARC marks its 50-year anniversary.

▪  Dec 20, 2014: The FARC declares a unilateral ceasefire.

▪  March 10, 2105: The government orders a halt to aerial bombardment of the guerrillas.

▪  April 15, 2015: The FARC ambushes a military patrol killing 10. The president renews bombing.

▪  May 21, 2015: The military kills 26 FARC members in Guapi, Cauca.

▪  May 27, 2015: The FARC ends its unilateral ceasefire.

▪  Dec 20, 2015: The FARC announces new ceasefire; this one sticks.

▪  March 23, 2016: Peace negotiators miss self-imposed deadline to reach agreement.

▪  June 23, 2016: Negotiators in Havana agree to disarmament road-map.

▪  July 10, 2016: The FARC and military clash near La Uribe. Both sides blame it on miscommunication.

▪  July 18, 2016: Supreme Court approves a peace referendum to ratify an eventual deal.

▪  Aug 29, 2016: Bilateral ceasefire declared.

▪  Sep 23, 2016: FARC unanimously approve deal at 10th Conference.

▪  Sep 26, 2016: Santos and “Timochenko” sign-off on peace accord in Cartagena.

▪  Oct 2, 2016: Colombia narrowly rejects peace deal in national referendum.

▪  Oct 7, 2016: Santos is awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

▪  Nov 12, 2016: Negotiators sign revised peace deal in Havana.

▪  Nov 24, 2016: Santos and “Timochenko” expected to sign new deal in Bogotá.