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Colombia, FARC Set to Sign Renegotiated Peace Deal


Supporters rallying for the nation’s new peace agreement with FARC hold a giant flag during a march in Bogota, Colombia, Nov. 15, 2016. The accord is expected to be signed Nov. 24, 2016.

Colombia's government and the country's largest rebel group, known as the FARC, are set to sign a renegotiated peace deal Thursday.

The revised document will be signed in Bogota between FARC leader Rodrigo Londono and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to end the decades-long conflict with the insurgent group.

Peter Hakim, president emeritus and senior fellow at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, told VOA that although the accord lacks universal support, it should be approved by Congress.

Hakim said, like other agreements of this kind, there are compromises and, when taken out of the judicial realm and placed into the political realm, inevitably those accused of rights abuses and crimes will escape justice.

The government and representatives of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have been negotiating in Cuba for more than four years to bring an end to the conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions in the Andean country.

Earlier deal rejected by voters

Last month, voters taking part in a referendum surprisingly rejected the first accord, which was seen as too soft on the rebels. After the revised deal is signed, it will be submitted to Colombia's Congress for approval, rather than put to another referendum.

Ever since the original deal's defeat at the polls, the FARC and government negotiators have worked around the clock, introducing some 50-plus changes to make it more acceptable to conservative Colombians who overwhelmingly despise the FARC.

Some of these modifications include explaining private property rights and detailing how the rebels would be confined in rural areas for crimes committed during the 52-year war.

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe talks to the media after a meeting with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos over a new peace deal with FARC, Nov. 12, 2016. Uribe is very much against the accord.
Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe talks to the media after a meeting with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos over a new peace deal with FARC, Nov. 12, 2016. Uribe is very much against the accord.

Despite the amendments in the 310-page document, opposition leader and former President Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday rejected the deal, saying the changes are merely cosmetic, adding that there is still a long way to go.

"Although the president of the republic calls us radicals, we have accepted that in other areas there were modifications which we have thought convenient and we have said that there is a third category of issues that could be adjusted here in Congress. The serious thing is that the government does not give in to impunity, drug trafficking,” Uribe said Tuesday.

Uribe requested a meeting with the FARC leadership to discuss his concerns, but his overtures were soundly rejected.

Uribe, now a senator, wants rebel leaders banned from holding public office and jailed for crimes committed.

"Uribe governed badly, corrupted and bled Colombia during eight years and never wanted peace. He wanted to defeat the FARC, but he couldn't,'' FARC commander Pablo Catatumbo, a rebel leaders in Bogota, said via Twitter.

President Santos has made clear there is no more room for negotiation. In a joint government-FARC statement Tuesday, negotiators said they were still working on the procedures that will be used for ratification in Congress, where the government coalition has a solid majority.

The United States congratulated the government and the president of Colombia on reaching the peace agreement with the FARC.

“This progress is a testament to the commitment shown by all sides, including those who did not support the original accord,” the White House said in a statement.

Secretary of State John Kerry said in a recent statement the agreement "constitutes an important step forward on Colombia’s path to a just and durable peace.

The United States, in coordination with the government of Colombia, will continue to support full implementation of the final peace agreement," he said.