BOGOTA Oct 3 Colombia's government and Marxist
FARC guerrillas will scramble on Monday to revive a plan to end
their 52-year war after voters rejected the hard-negotiated deal
as too lenient on the rebels in a shock result that plunged the
nation into uncertainty.
Putting on a brave face after a major political defeat,
President Juan Manuel Santos offered hope to those who backed
his four-year peace negotiation with the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Cuba.
Latin America's longest conflict has killed 220,000 people.
"I will not give up, I will keep seeking peace until the
last minute of my term," he said moments after losing Sunday's
plebiscite to those who want a re-negotiation of the deal or an
obliteration of the FARC on the battlefield.
Santos plans to meet all political parties on Monday and
send lead government peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle back
to Havana to speak to the FARC leadership.
Rodrigo Londono, the top FARC commander better known by his
nom de guerre Timochenko, also offered reassurance the rebels
remain committed to becoming a peaceful political party.
"The FARC reiterates its disposition to use only words as a
weapon to build toward the future," Timochenko said after the
result. "Count on us, peace will triumph."
Santos, 65, who was not obliged by law to hold a plebiscite,
had said there was no Plan B for the failure of the peace vote,
but now appears ready to consider options.
Colombians, even those who backed the "No" vote, expressed
shock at the outcome and uncertainty about the future.
"We never thought this could happen," said sociologist and
"No" voter Mabel Castano, 37. "Now I just hope the government,
the opposition and the FARC come up with something intelligent
that includes us all."
The peace accord reached last month and signed a week ago
offered the possibility that rebel fighters would hand in their
weapons to the United Nations, confess their crimes and form a
political party rooted in their Marxist ideology.
The FARC, which began as a peasant revolt in 1964, would
have been able to compete in the 2018 presidential and
legislative elections and have 10 unelected congressional seats
guaranteed through 2026.
That enraged "No" supporters, including powerful former
president Alvaro Uribe, who argued the rebels should serve jail
terms and never be permitted to enter politics.
Uribe, a onetime ally who has become Santos' fiercest
critic, may now hold the key to any potential re-negotiation.
While the FARC has refused to serve traditional jail terms,
it may see no future in returning to the battlefields and so
consider some sort of new deal.
"In the end, the people have spoken: the Colombian
government and the FARC have no choice but to renegotiate," said
Peter Schechter, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America
The FARC already softened its stance in the original
negotiation, publicly admitting for the first time it trafficked
drugs, recruited minors and committed human rights violations,
But voters worried the rebels would fail to turn over assets
from drugs and illegal mining, potentially giving them a
formidable war chest that could outstrip the coffers of
Regions still riven by the conflict, including poor areas
along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, voted resoundingly in
favor of the deal, but formerly violent interior areas pacified
during the Uribe presidency largely backed the "no" camp.
"How sad. It seems Colombia has forgotten about the cruelty
of war, our deaths, our injured, our mutilated, our victims and
the suffering we've all lived through with this war," said
Adriana Rivera, 43, a philosophy professor standing tearfully at
the hotel of the "yes" campaign.
The vote may delay Santos' plans to move on to other matters
including much-needed tax reform and other macroeconomic
measures to offset a drop in oil income. It will also dent his
hopes for a boom in foreign investment in mining, oil and
agriculture in Latin America's fourth-largest economy.
(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, Nelson Bocanegra,
Carlos Vargas and Monica Garcia; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and