Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia referendum: Peace talks to be revived despite 'no' vote

"No" supporters celebrate following their victory in the referendum on 2 October 2016 in Bogota, Colombia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many of the 'no' voters believe that rebels who confess to crimes should serve jail terms

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has vowed to continue working for peace despite the shock rejection of a deal with Farc rebels by 50.2% of voters.

The Farc leader, known as Timochenko, said he was prepared to review and "fix" the agreement, after many in the "no" camp said it was too lenient.

Talks between rebel leaders and government negotiators were due to take place in Cuba on Monday.

The deal was signed last week after nearly four years of negotiations.

It is not yet clear what can be done to save the deal. President Santos earlier said there was no "Plan B" for ending the conflict, which has killed about 260,000 people.

"I will not give up, I will keep seeking peace until the last minute of my term," he said in address after the results were announced.

The chief peace negotiator for the government, Humberto de la Calle, offered to resign on Monday, saying he took "full responsibility for any errors in the negotiation". He was earlier ordered back to the Cuban capital of Havana to work with rebel leaders on modifying the deal.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, who led the "no" campaign, is demanding prison sentences for rebel leaders found guilty of crimes and wants them banned from politics.


How did it happen?

Colombians were asked to endorse or reject the peace agreement in a popular vote.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Voters were asked to vote "yes" or "no" to the peace agreement signed last week

The "yes" campaign had the backing not just of President Santos but of a wide array of politicians both in Colombia and abroad. But there was also a vocal campaign for a "no" vote, led by Mr Uribe.

Pre-election polls had indicated a strong victory for the 'yes' camp.

But in a surprise result, 50.2% of voters rejected the agreement compared with 49.8% who voted for it.

The difference was about 54,000 votes out of almost 13 million ballots. Turnout was low with fewer than 38% of voters casting their votes.


Who voted how?

Colombia was divided regionally with most of the outlying provinces voting in favour of the agreement and those nearer the capital and inland voting against it.

In Choco, one of the provinces hardest hit by the conflict, 80% of voters backed the deal. The capital, Bogota, also voted "yes" with 56%.

But in the eastern province of Casanare - where farmers and landowners have been extorted for years by the Farc - 71.1 % rejected the deal.


Why did people vote 'no'?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former President Alvaro Uribe (centre, in blue) led the successful 'no' campaign

Most of those who voted "no" said they thought the peace agreement was letting the rebels "get away with murder".

Under the deal, special courts would have been created to try crimes committed during the conflict.

Those who confessed to their crimes would have been given more lenient sentences.

Many Colombians also balked at the government's plan to pay demobilised Farc rebels a monthly stipend and to offer those wanting to start a business financial help.

"No" voters said this amounted to a reward for criminal behaviour while honest citizens were left to struggle financially.

Many also said that they simply did not trust the rebels to keep their promise to lay down arms for good, pointing to previous failed peace talks when the rebels took advantage of a lull in fighting to regroup.

Others were unhappy that under the agreement, the Farc would be guaranteed 10 seats in Congress.

Read more about the deal's most contentious points


What will happen next?

President Santos said that the ceasefire between government forces and the Farc would remain in place.

The Farc leader known as Timochenko says he is ready to review the peace deal.

"There are various ways to read (the referendum result) and we must analyze them to see what needs to be fixed," he said in a radio interview on Monday.

Media captionPresident Juan Manuel Santos: "I am the guarantor of Colombia's stability"

Government negotiators are travelling to Cuba to consult Farc leaders on the next move.


What does the 'no' campaign want?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Former President Alvaro Uribe said the deal offered rebels who had committed crimes "impunity"

Following the vote Mr Uribe, the main opponent of the deal, insisted that he was not opposed to peace but that it needed "corrections".

His demands include:

  • That those found guilty of crimes be barred from running for public office
  • That Farc leaders serve time in prison for crimes committed
  • That the Farc use their illicit gains to pay their victims compensation
  • That no changes be made to the Colombian constitution

What has been the reaction?

One of surprise, as even Mr Uribe had predicted that the "yes" vote would win.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Supporters of the deal were shocked when the "no" won
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some just could not believe the result

Some of those who had gathered to watch the result on giant screens expressed their disappointment.

One woman in Medellin told Caracol radio: "I never thought I could be this sad (...) I think of my country, of the young people and my heart breaks into a thousand pieces."

Farc leader Timochenko expressed his disappointment, and blamed the result on "the destructive power of those who sow hatred and revenge".

Opponents of the agreement, however, took to the streets to celebrate. One Colombian woman told BBC Mundo that Colombians had not forgotten that the path of the Farc was "paved with kidnappings, killings and drug trafficking".

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