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Peace at last: Colombia ratifies deal with FARC rebels

The voting public rejected an earlier peace deal in an October referendum.

Image: Ivan Valencia AP/Press Association Images

COLOMBIA’S CONGRESS HAS unanimously approved a peace deal with FARC guerrillas to end more than a half-century of civil war, lawmakers said.

The House of Representatives voted 130-0 to approve the text adopted a day earlier by the Senate.

President Juan Manuel Santos said the vote provided “landmark backing” for the peace he pushed.

Santos, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, shepherded the revised deal through Congress after voters shocked the world by rejecting an earlier version in a referendum last month.

The government’s chief peace negotiator with the FARC, Humberto de la Calle, had urged lawmakers to ratify this deal, warning the army’s ceasefire with the leftist guerrillas was “fragile”.

Two FARC fighters and several local activists have been killed since the ceasefire went into force on August 29, triggering fears it could collapse.

The peace deal’s chief opponent, former president Alvaro Uribe, and his allies argued that it grants impunity to rebels guilty of war crimes, giving them seats in Congress rather than sending them to jail.

Rival protests were held in front of Congress yesterday by both advocates and opponents of the deal.

Colombia’s messy half-century conflict has drawn in multiple leftist guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.

It has left 260,000 people dead and 60,000 missing.

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The peace deal follows three failed efforts to end the conflict, under presidents Belisario Betancur (1982-1986), Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994) and Andres Pastrana (1998-2002).

While the deal ends conflict with the Marxist FARC — which until now was Latin America’s last major insurgency, it is not peace across the board yet for the South American nation of over 47 million.

Peace still has to be negotiated with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN); talks on scheduling the dialogue resume January 10.

- © AFP, 2016

Read: Colombia’s government will sign a new peace deal this week

Read: After 52 years of war and 260,000 dead, Colombians reject peace deal with Farc rebels

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