By Laura Romero
Colombia was left in disarray and uncertainty after voters in Colombia reject a deal that would have ended a 52-year war with the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group.
After four years of negotiations, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was left in shock as he watched the results come in at the presidential palace in the country’s capital, Bogotá. “I will not give up,” he said after learning about the results. “I will continue seeking peace until the last day of my mandate”
The results, resembling that of the Brexit vote, showed how divided the nation is on the issue. The ‘no’ campaign led by 50.2% to 49.8%, a difference of less than 50,000 votes. But, while the results were narrow, voter turnout was also low. Less than 38% of the electorate, leaving many to wonder if the low participation could have influenced the result.
“I voted yes. I’m angry, but not at the fact that we lost. More than 40% of the people did not vote. The indifference is what is enraging. People don’t care. Those who didn’t vote, don’t care about those who died in war, about those who were kidnapped or murdered. The indifference of the people in this country is why I’m angry,” said Maria Jaramillo, a student in Colombia.
For now, FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño and President Santos announced they would return to Havana to continue negotiations.
Although a ceasefire will remain in place, the country of Colombia will have to figure out what it will do after years of negotiations. Many of those who voted ‘no’ believed the deal did not do justice and was too lenient on the FARC rebels who were responsible for more than 200,000 deaths and hundreds of kidnappings. The deal would have also granted amnesty to about 5,800 FARC soldiers and let those accused of severe crimes to qualify for community-service work.
“We want peace, we all do. But letting a terrorist group get away with millions of lives is not the way to go,” said Isabela Durán, a law student in Bogota. “They still have 400 people captive. These people shouldn’t be given the right to run for office, they shouldn’t get to walk away from what they’ve done. We want justice.”
But for others, the deal would have finally ended a war that affected millions of lives.
“This day will be remembered as the day Colombia turned its back on what could have been the end of war,” said Natalia Arevalo, a Colombian voter. “The deal wasn’t perfect, but it would have given the people of Colombia, the people who lost their family in the war, peace.”
Negotiating a deal that places FARC soldiers in prison to respond to their crimes will be hard; a new deal will take years. But for now, a nation divided still awaits and hopes for the end of war.