Colombia, FARC rebels reach deal to end half-century war
Colombia's government and the country's biggest rebel group reached a historic deal Wednesday evening for ending a half-century of hostilities in one of the world's longest-running and bloodiest armed conflicts.
President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as an opportunity to turn the page on decades of political violence that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and driven more than five million people from their homes. He said he would hold a plebiscite on October 2 to give Colombians the chance to vote on the accord. Without their approval, implementation can't begin.
In Colombia's capital of Bogota, people gathered in a plaza to watch on giant screen the agreement being announced by negotiators in Havana who have been working around the clock in recent days to hammer out the final sensitive details left to end the four years of talks.
PEACE OF COLOMBIA
"We've won the most beautiful of all battles: the peace of Colombia," the chief FARC negotiator, Ivan Marquez, said at the announcement in Havana.
As soon as his speech finished, bringing the televised event to an end, the emotional crowd on the plaza sang the national anthem and shouted "Viva Colombia! Yes to Peace!"
As congratulations poured in from the United Nations and other countries, US President Barack Obama welcomed the deal. He said in a statement that the announcement was "a critical juncture in what will be a long process to fully implement a just and lasting peace agreement that can advance security and prosperity for the Colombian people".
The Colombian government's chief peace negotiator says it will be "catastrophic" if Colombians fail to endorse the pact with the country's largest rebel group in an October 2 referendum.
Humberto de la Calle notes that when previous Colombian peace drives failed, it took at least a decade to renew them.
De la Calle told a news conference yesterday that he's not yet sure when the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will formally sign the deal to end more than a half-century of conflict.
The government published the final text of the peace accord yesterday and it weighs in at almost 300 pages.
President Juan Manuel Santos is required by law to publish the full text at least 30 days before the referendum to give Colombians a chance to review it before they vote.