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People's Daily Online

Peace process in Colombia halted

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 15:09, October 04, 2016

BOGOTA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Six days after President Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Timoleon Jimenez signed a peace agreement to end 52 years of a civil war, Colombia's peace process has come to a halt.

In a referendum Sunday, Colombian people voted to reject the deal by 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent.

In a television address, President Santos said that he respected the decision of the people and hoped to fight for a solution to the new crisis.

"The majority, even if by the thinnest of margins, has said no. I am the first to recognize this result," he said.

He added that he guaranteed the continuation of the unilateral ceasefire, a message which was backed by FARC commander Timoleon Jimenez.

"The bilateral and definitive ceasefire...remains in place and will remain in place. I listen to those who said no and I listen to those who said yes. All without exception want peace, they have clearly stated it," he added.

The results showed that the zones where the conflict has left the greatest numbers of victims, the Yes camp easily won out, but this was not enough to beat the No dominance in cities that did not feel the war as strongly.

Outside the country, Colombians voted around the world, with 54 percent supporting the agreement and 45.86 percent opposing it.

In an interview with Xinhua, Bogota councilwoman Angelica Lozano lamented the decision, but said she trusted the president and his team to protect the peace agreement.

While Lozano is from the opposition Green Alliance party, she said that "it has to be recognized...Santos did the impossible to bring a realistic and transcendent agreement with the FARC."

"We cry today and we will cry for a few days but this country will continue to move forward. We will now continue counting the dead, we will succeed in an uncertain and difficult process," she continued.

Fernando Sarmiento, a researcher in the peace process at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, told Xinhua that "this leaves our country in a very complicated movement toward a deepening divide. This shows that the conflict has other paths that need to be looked at. I had thought that the true war was not only centered on the guerrillas but on other sectors and interests that must also be negotiated with."

Through the night, members of the Democratic Center, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, celebrated the result after an intense campaign which painted the agreement as being far too forgiving to the FARC.

"We want to create a grand national pact. It seems crucial that, even in the name of peace, we do not create risks to the values that made this possible: freedom, institutional justice, pluralism," said Uribe on Sunday in a speech after learning of the result.

On Sunday morning, as he cast his vote, Uribe challenged those backing the deal. "What will we say to 140,000 Colombian prisoners who overall have committed crimes less serious than those of the FARC. What will we say to those prisoners when the main leaders of the FARC do not receive due punishment and can stand for political election?" he asked.

On Monday, it certainly seemed that amid national uncertainty the winner of this result is Uribe, who has shown that a large part of Colombians still believe in his vision for the country.

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