Stunned Latin America exhorts Colombia to keep seeking peace

Nations from leftist-run Venezuela to center-right Peru lamented the outcome of Sunday's referendum, the "No" camp won by less than half a percentage point.

By: Reuters | Caracas/lima | Published:October 3, 2016 10:21 pm
colombia, colombia peace deal, colombia rejects peace deal, latin america on colombia peace deal, latin america news, world news, colombia, colombia news, world news, indian express Peru’s President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski speaks during a conference with the foreign press in Lima, Peru July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Latin America bemoaned Colombian voters’ rejection of a peace deal with Marxist insurgents but regional leaders urged Bogota to keep pursing efforts to end the longest-running conflict in the Americas. Regional countries were heavily involved in drafting a plan to end the 52-year conflict. Havana hosted four years of peace negotiations while Chile, Cuba, and Venezuela acted as guarantor and observer countries.

Nations from leftist-run Venezuela to center-right Peru lamented the outcome of Sunday’s referendum, the “No” camp won by less than half a percentage point.

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“Very unfortunately, yesterday a minority expressed itself, due to media attacks, a psychological war and war propaganda,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said, calling the vote “unbelievable.”

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski warned the peace deal is “going to be very difficult to renegotiate”. Others in the region, including the center-right government in Argentina, said they would support reviving a peace plan, as both sides in the war have said they would.

“We still stand with Colombia,” Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said on Twitter. “Peace is built step by step, day by day. Wisdom in Colombia’s leadership will be key.”

Colombians who voted against the deal put forward by center-right President Juan Manuel Santos argue it was too lenient on the FARC rebels by allowing them to re-enter society, form a political party, and escape jail sentences.

Foreigners had celebrated the peace agreement without understanding its implications, they say.

The conflict killed about 220,000 people, displaced millions, and saw atrocities on all sides.

Colombia has become far less violent in the last decade, though it remains a big source of drug production and trafficking which the guerrillas used to fund themselves.

“A peace deal with the FARC that genuinely worked would have seen the Colombian state extend its remit across the country, potentially pushing drugs production into Peru (and to a lesser extent Bolivia), and security challenges into Ecuador,” said Nicholas Watson of Teneo Intelligence.

But in a region that is deeply polarized politically, there were also some voices celebrating the referendum’s defeat.

In neighboring Venezuela, many in the political opposition were appalled by the deal, which they said gave the FARC impunity and handed their rival President Nicolas Maduro and his ally Cuban President Raul Castro a political win.

“If conversations between the Colombian government and the ‘narco-terrorist guerrilla’ are resumed, they must exclude the Cubans from the process,” said Henry Ramos, head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.