Colombia Peace Accord: Can it be fixed after stunning No vote?

By Ronald J. Morgan

Colombia’s Ultra-Rightists are back  center stage in the nation’s political arena.

In a surprising, unexpected, change of fate, Colombians voted down a complex peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  The vote, Sunday, Oct. 2, was in sharp contradiction to numerous opinion polls released in the weeks before the plebiscite. The victory revives the right wing Centro Democratico party from the defeat it suffered in the presidential elections of 2014, and the regional elections of 2015.

After more than four years of negotiations President Juan Manuel Santos and the members of the FARC Command are left with a difficult path forward toward peace. Santos has ordered a bilateral cease fire kept in place while a series of consultations are held with the promoters of the No vote. United Nations security forces are also staying in place to prevent violence.

Members of Colombia’s hard right, led by former President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) achieved a rejection of the peace treaty signed in Cartagena, Sept. 26, with 6,419, 759 votes against the accord or 50.23%. The yes votes totalled 6,359, 643, some 49.76%. The vote came during rainy weather in some areas. Absenteeism totalled a whopping 62.57% which means that 20 million voters sat home during the crucial vote. Also hurting the Si or Yes vote were large numbers of null and unmarked votes –86,243 unmarked votes and 170,946 null votes. No charges of fraud were raised, however. 1,2,3,4

See: Colombia Update: Regional Elections Bolster Rightwing Power

Humberto de la Calle. the chief negotiator of the peace negotiations and a leader of the Si campaign, tendered his resignation. But the president has since asked him to stay on to  negotiate a new modified agreement. Gina Parody, secretary of education, also resigned after working in the SI movement. Former President Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994), who was also important in leading the SI movement, has refrained from commenting on the debacle. 5

The Oct. 2, vote was a shock.  The atmosphere of impending peace is now one of uncertainty and concern about right wing control over political reforms. The central question is whether the peace accord can be fixed and whether the FARC will be willing to make further concessions. The surprise of the defeat is still reverberating throughout the nation.

Supporters of the NO also seemed taken by surprise by the victory, and quickly stressed that they were still in favor of achieving peace, but want the peace accord changed. President Juan Manuel Santos moved to calm the political waters by quickly putting into place a dialogue with the leaders of the NO campaign. This new negotiation with the right is providing the basis for some rational effort to resolve the impasse over the peace accord. But it has also been criticized by the Left as an accommodation among political elites.6

The upset victory by the No forces brought former President Alvaro Uribe face to face with Santos for the first time in six years. Another critic of the peace process, former President Andres Pastrana (1998-2000) also met with the president to discuss how NO objections may be worked into a revised accord.

See: Colombian Political Forces Reset After Santos Win

Rounding out the group of ultra-right leaders were: Martha Lucia Ramirez, Ivan Duque, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, former Presidential Candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga and former Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez.  On Wednesday, a group of NO Commissions were working to draw up a list of objections and suggested modifications to the accord. These suggestions will be presented to the government in the coming week. The government will then negotiate again with the FARC in Havana. The revised peace accord, if agreed to, could then be submitted to a second plebiscite.

In the midst of the new negotiations with Colombia’s peace opponents Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his negotiation efforts. The prize committee did not award the prize to the FARC, however, adding further insult to the Leftist Insurgency’s effort.

Later in the week a newspaper interview brought another surprise to the mounting tensions. The NO Victory took a potential stumble when the NO campaign was described in a way that it seemed that it tried to incite the electorate to anger with arguments that were less than accurate.  Juan Carlos Velez Uribe, manager of the Centro Democratico NO Campaign explained in an interview with the Bogota Newspaper La Republica the campaign strategy and identified the major NO campaign supporters.  This explanation quickly touched off a denial by Alvaro Uribe, head of the Centro Democratico and sharp criticism from the Left.7,8

Legal actions charging illegal campaign techniques also were brought before the National Prosecutors Office and the Supreme Court. Velez Uribe resigned his post at Centro Democratico and retracted what he said in the interview. Whether the campaign tactics could be considered illegal campaign activities adds further uncertainty to the effort to reconcile the accord

The FARC has taken a conciliatory posture since the loss on Oct. 2. Comandante Timoleon Jimenez has pointed out that Uribe was invited to talk directly to the FARC about his concerns on two occasions. He also stressed that the FARC plans to defend what was agreed to in the peace accord. But he opened the possibility of some change through a national political pact which would solidify the peace. He also raised the question of whether the peace accord is legally done in by the plebiscite since it was signed by the government and registered as a special accord in Bern, Switzerland.

The FARC has called for national mobilizations to support the gains won during the peace negotiations. Marches to support the peace are proceeding with the aim of showing grass-roots support by the left for the current peace accord. 9,10

The No vote does do in all recently passed legislation to fast track the accord into the Constitution. President Santos has described the government’s approach to fixing the peace accord as consisting of a series of “adjustments” to what has been agreed to. It is thought a second plebiscite could be held to approve the modifications.

A week after the Oct 2 vote Uribe posted on his twitter a series of demands that he says will be made in the coming negotiations with the government. 11

Among the demands are:

1. Punishment of high ranking persons accused of serious crimes with five or eight years of incarceration even though it may be at an agricultural farm or other work facility. Those found guilty of serious crimes should not be eligible for election to elective office.

2. Narcotics crimes are to be considered normal crimes ineligible for special treatment.

3. Transitional justice to be put under the control of a special Supreme Court body or the current system of  Ley de Justicia, Paz y Reparación to be applied..

4. Amnesty for rank and file guerrillas and special relief for military and police accused of crimes. Guerrillas are to receive payment for eradicating drug crops.

5. Manual eradication should be a priority with a possibility of aerial spraying if necessary.

6. Special protection for land owners so they won’t be affected by the peace agreement.

7.  Financing of the peace agreement should be adjusted to the fiscal capabilities of the state.

8. Agreement with the FARC should not limit the ability of mayors and governors to attend to the needs of citizens equally.

9. Calls for a limitation on consultations with communities through government decrees to avoid interference with government activities.Consultations are to be public.


1. Estos son los principales actores que ganan con el ‘no’ del plebiscito

2.La debacle de las encuestadoras

3.Colombia dijo “No” al acuerdo de paz con las Farc

4.¿Por qué perdió el Sí? Oct. 2, 2016

5. De la Calle pone su cargo a disposición del presidente Oct. 3, 2016

5a. Santos rechaza renuncia a De la Calle y lo pone a negociar con el uribismo

6. Organizaciones sociales rechazan negociación entre santismo y uribismo Oct. 4, 2016

7. El No ha sido la campaña más barata y más efectiva de la historia, Oct. 5, 2016

8. Denuncian al senador Álvaro Uribe por estrategia del No en el plebiscito

9. Renegociar el acuerdo de paz: ¿Es posible? Oct. 3, 2016

10. Human Rights Watch expone soluciones para puntos de discordia en acuerdo final de paz, Oct. 7, 2016,

11. Votamos No, seguimos por la paz. Urgencia y Paciencia. Algunas proposiciones



About morganworld982014

In recent years I’ve been living in South America and writing occasional articles that touch on human rights and social issues in Latin America. Recently, I’ve been examining how voters are changing the political balance in Latin America. Watch for upcoming election stories. One of the most important elections will be in Colombia this year. -- Ronald J. Morgan
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