Colombia: new peace deal with FARC signed

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" signed a new peace agreement Nov. 24 to replace the one signed in September but turned down by voters in a national plebiscite. Santos and Timochenko signed the 310-page agreement in a ceremony at the Colon Theater in Bogotá, a short distance from the government palace. Attended by some 800, the ceremony was austere compared the one celebrated in Cartagena in September, at which there were over 2,000 guests, including 14 heads of state, and an aerobatic show by the Colombian air force. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sent a statement this time around, expressing his "hopes that Colombians will come together at this time to move the peace process forward."

The new agreement is in part the fruit of a political dialogue called by Santos to rescue the peace process after the plebiscite—with his rival Alvaro Uribe, leader of the "No" campaign, invited to make suggestions for a new pact with the FARC. In the end, the FARC agreed to make changes in 56 areas. Under the new provisions, the FARC will have to declare all their assets and hand them over to the state, with the monies to be used in reparation payments for the victims of the conflict. A limit of 10 years has been set for the "transitional justice" system, and foreign jurists are barred from participating. However, FARC leaders rejected the demand that former guerillas who had committed crimes related to the conflict be imprisoned and barred from participating in politics.

The new agreement will not be put before Colombia's voters, but will be presented to the country's Congress next week for approval. Although Uribe's hard-right party rejects even the new agreement that it helped craft, it is still expected to pass, having broad support from the government's center-right coalition as well as the left opposition. (Havana Times, Jurist, Nov. 25; BBC News, Al Jazeera, Nov. 24)