BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - Colombia’s Congress Wednesday approved a peace deal between the government and the rebel group known as FARC to end more than 50 years of war.
The lower house voted 130-0 in favor of the agreement, a day after members of the Senate backed it by a margin of 75-0.
Members of former President Alvaro Uribe’s party walked out in protest in both chambers. He has criticized the peace deal as being too lenient on FARC members, particularly the group’s leadership, as well as the sole authority given to lawmakers to approve this version instead of putting approval to a national referendum.
A previous version failed a referendum in October, prompting more than 50 changes to the document.
Congressional approval sets off a six-month process during which the more than 7,000 FARC rebels will hand over their weapons.
But the rebels insist that their troops won’t start demobilizing until lawmakers pass an amnesty law freeing some 2,000 rebels in jail.
“Tomorrow a new era begins,” said President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October for his efforts to negotiate the truce.
Humberto de la Calle, the lead government negotiator, had urged lawmakers to approve the agreement, saying the current peace in Colombia is fragile and that this is a “crucial moment” for the country.
Peace negotiations have stretched on for four years in the effort to end the conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.