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Colombia-FARC Peace Deal Rejected by Colombian Voters

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By James Hess, Ph.D.
Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Intelligence Studies at American Military University

On September 26, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the signing of an historic peace deal between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This deal was designed to end over 50 years of war between Columbia and the FARC.

From Rural Roots, The FARC Became A Terrorist Organization

The FARC, initially a rural-based communist insurgent organization that sought to overthrow the Colombian government, began their violent attacks in 1964. By the early 1980s, the FARC evolved into a nationwide, drug-financed pariah with international ties.

The FARC made considerable gains against the Colombian government, and they are a legitimate threat to Colombian national security. In fact, the U.S officially recognized FARC as a terrorist organization in October 1997.

After Peace Deal Rejection, Columbia Peace Efforts Are at a Halt

The peace deal had to be ratified by the Colombian populace prior to taking effect. However, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on October 2 that Colombian voters rejected the peace deal.

After Colombian voters’ rejection of the peace plan, the conflict between the FARC and Colombia continues. President Santos says that there is no plan B, which means that there are currently no forthcoming alternatives for peace with the FARC. The FARC has not provided any announcements about their future plans after the rejection of the peace plan.

Why Did Colombian Voters Reject The Peace Plan?

Any continued efforts towards peace in Colombia would have to consider the reasons why the majority of the voters of the referendum rejected the peace deal. One possible reason is that some Colombian citizens considered the peace deal too generous to FARC members. Other reasons could include that many citizens lost members of their family due to attacks by the FARC, or that the previous president, Alvaro Uribe, was vocally against the deal.

It will be interesting to observe if there can be negotiations toward a new peace deal. In order for future peace deals to have a chance to be implemented, Colombia will have to ensure that there are harsher penalties for the more violent members of the FARC. Certainly the international community is interested in seeing this conflict resolved. Unless a peace deal is ultimately achieved, the conflict between the government of Colombia and the FARC continues, which could renew fighting, or prompt the FARC to refocus their efforts on coca production, the plant that produces cocaine. The rejected peace deal included efforts from the FARC to help farmers replace coca production with more licit alternatives. The U.S. has contributed heavily to the defeat of the FARC and the end to the conflict. It is very likely that there will be continued efforts to achieve peace, perhaps by using this rejected peace plan as a starting point for the next deal.

About the Author

Dr. James Hess received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University where he studied improving analytical methodologies in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism environments. He is currently studying the relationship between Islamic jurisprudence and terrorism as an International Relations Research Fellow with the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

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