Overwhelming Majority of Colombians to Say ‘Yes’ to FARC Peace Agreement

Colombia: The Silence of the Real Enemies of Peace

Colombians celebrate the gains of the peace process in the capital city Bogota.Colombians celebrate the gains of the peace process in the capital city Bogota. | Photo: AFP

The peace process in Havana, Cuba, between FARC rebels and the Colombian government is in its final stages after nearly four years of talks.

The majority of Colombians say they will vote “Yes” in a plebiscite to affirm the peace deal ending nearly 50 years of war between the Colombian government and the main rebel grooup, known by the Spanish acronym, FARC, a new poll has revealed.

According to the Gallup poll results released Tuesday, of the half of the population that has made up their mind on how they will vote, 67.5 percent are expected to vote in favor of ratifying the final peace deal while 32.5 percent would vote against it.

The outcome completely reverses an earlier poll last week, which found that a majority of Colombians would reject the accords, set to be finalized in a matter of weeks in Havana, Cuba, where peace negotiations between the two sides of the conflict have been ongoing since 2012.

The Gallup poll surveyed 1,200 Colombians, of which 20 percent responded that they definitely did not intend to to go to the polls in the plebiscite, 8.4 percent said they probably wouldn’t vote, and another 18.4 percent said they didn’t know yet.

Proposed by President Juan Manuel Santos as the mechanism to ratify the peace agreement and greenlighted by the country’s Constitutional Court, the plebiscite is expected to take place within a couple of months of the signing of the agreement, which means it could likely happen before the end of the year.

To pass, a majority of 4.5 million Colombian voters must vote “Yes” in the plebiscite. In the unlikely event that the deal is voted down, it would not preclude the two sides from renegotiating unpopular provisions but it could delay implementation of the deal. The government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said earlier this week that it would be a “huge mistake” to try to reopen negotiations with that FARC and that Colombian society would have little to gain from such a move.

The plebiscite is aimed at legitimizing the peace agreement that will bring an end to 50 years of armed conflict between government forces and the FARC, the longest running civil war in Latin America.

Former conservative President and current Senator Alvaro Uribe has been campaigning for a “No” vote in the plebiscite, arguing that amnesty for FARC combatants — which will not apply to war crimes and crimes against humanity — is a recipe for impunity. Uribe has been ardent in his denuncition of the FARC and argued demobilized rebels should go to jail. President Santos has criticized Uribe’s extreme positions.

The peace process has already reached a number of landmark partial agreements on matters of transitional justice, land redistribution, crop substitution programs for illicit products, and other issues. Earlier this year, both sides of the conflict signed off on a historic bilateral cease-fire, an agreement widely celebrated as the end of the war in Colombia.

Outstanding issues on the negotiating table include reincorporation of demobilized former combatants into society, including the sanctioned political participation of the FARC as a non-military political movement, and specific end-of-conflict measures.

Colombia’s more than five decades civil war has uprooted more than 6.3 million people and left more than 220,000 people dead. Most of the abuses have allegedly been committed by right-wing paramilitary militias.