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Colombian President Extends Cease-fire With Marxist Rebels

  • VOA News

University students shout slogans in support of peace in Bogota, Colombia, Oct. 12, 2016.

University students shout slogans in support of peace in Bogota, Colombia, Oct. 12, 2016.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday he agreed to extend a cease-fire deal with a Marxist rebel group in the country in hopes of reviving a failed peace accord.

The original cease-fire agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was due to expire at the end of October, but will now extend through the end of the year.

"I have made the decision to extend the bilateral cease-fire until December 31. Let this be clear: This is not an ultimatum nor a deadline, but I hope that the entire process of obtaining a new agreement will be complete well before then," Santos said in a televised address.

The announcement of the cease-fire extension came shortly after Santos met with demonstrators who have been protesting in Bogotá demanding the government move forward with the peace accord despite its rejection by voters.

Voters narrowly rejected the deal with 50.2 against, or by a margin of just 54,000 votes. The result came as a shock to Colombian leaders as public opinion polls leading up to the vote forecast the referendum would pass by a two-to-one margin.

Santos is engaged in ongoing negotiations with FARC representatives and opposition politicians to strike a new peace deal, though expectations for a deal remain low because FARC leaders refuse to budge on the already-signed peace accord and opponents say the rebels need to accept tougher terms.

Many "no" voters were genuinely offended that nearly all FARC rebels will avoid prison time for crimes allegedly committed during the uprising and get various financial support from the government.

They are also upset that FARC would be guaranteed seats in the Colombian congress without an election in exchange for transforming FARC into a political party.

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