Thu, 01 Dec 2016 03:48 UTC
President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono [pseudonym Timochenko] signed the accord last week, after the first deal was rejected in a national referendum. Santos is looking to get the deal implemented as soon as possible, in order to maintain a fragile ceasefire. Interior Minister Luis Ernesto Gomez praised the deal on Twitter, saying "Peace has arrived!"
However, Colombia's conservative population has expressed anger that Uribe ratified the agreement without holding another referendum, and lawmakers from the Democratic Center party left the floors of both houses of Congress in protest just before the voting began.
Former President Alvaro Uribe, now a senator for the Democratic Center party, has said the government is being too lenient on FARC rebels who have battled the government for 52 years, and that the deal does not serve as a deterrent for other groups involved in crime. The new agreement, aimed at ending Latin America's longest-running insurgency, was put together in just over a month, after the original pact - which allowed rebels to hold public office and skip jail - was narrowly defeated in an October 2 referendum.
Although the government claims the new deal includes most of the amendments put forward by those who rejected the original agreement, it still contains the controversial provisions allowing rebels to hold public office and avoid jail time, a topic which has also angered Colombia's conservatives.
FARC began in 1964 as a rebellion fighting rural poverty. It reached prominence in the 1980s and 90s, and was Latin America's largest and best-equipped militant organization at its peak, with an estimated 20,000 fighters. The Marxist group's five-decade battle with the government has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced millions.
Comment: The agreement also includes land reform issues, missing persons search, land mines removal and an end to illegal drug trafficking. Disarming FARC sparks fear they would make easy targets and as well as concerns that rival groups would take over the criminal rackets putting much of Colombia at extreme risk of greater corruption and violence.
And the US to the 'rescue': Kerry provided a U.S. commitment to support the security of disarmed rebels and Obama has asked Congress to support post-conflict peace efforts with $450 million in U.S. aid. Washington would consider removing the group from the terror list once they lay down their arms and no longer pose a risk to U.S. interests. Such a deal for the US taxpayer. What is the US extracting from this commitment?