Colombia was thrown into confusion on Sunday as voters appeared to reject what had been touted as an historic peace deal that would have ended more than 50 years of war between the government and FARC rebels.
Every major poll had the referendum passing handily, but a late-in-the-game surge in “no” votes seems to have confounded expectations and humiliated Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, who had touted the peace agreement as the major accomplishment of his presidency.
The Colombian government has been in a violent civil war with the leftist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — better known as FARC — for 52 years. The protracted, bloody civil war has been a national tragedy for Colombia, with FARC’s thousands of kidnappings tearing families apart all over the country.
The question confronting Colombians on the ballot read: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and construct a stable and enduring peace?”
Now the government is reporting that the “no” vote carried the day by the slimmest of margins, garnering 50.24 percent of the vote.
The president has said that he will accept the will of the people, but stressed that the already-signed cease-fire would remain in effect, and representatives from FARC have pledged their continuing commitment to ending the violence.
What will happen now is anybody’s guess. Both the government and the rebels seem to have been caught completely off-guard by the results of the referendum. FARC’s leaders had already appeared on television with the president, where they apologized and signed a peace agreement.
As part of the peace process, rebel fighters were to be granted amnesty and reintegrated into Colombian society. It seems that the Colombian people still bear too much ill will towards the rebels to countenance that.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, 74-year-old no-voter Myriam Ordoñez explained, “We all want peace, but I don’t trust these people.”