The national referendum in Colombia appears to have voted down the government’s peace deal with leftist rebels less than a week after President Juan Manuel Santos signed the historic accord before an audience that included several heads of state and the United Nations secretary-general. Here’s a look at the results and what lies ahead:
Opinion polls had predicted the “yes” vote would win by an almost two-to-one margin. But with almost all ballots counted, 50.2 percent of Colombians who voted Sunday opposed the deal and 49.8 percent favored it. That was a difference of about 60,000 votes out 13 million ballots.
Turnout was always expected to be low, around the 40 percent seen in recent congressional elections. But it was even lower, around 25 percent, in several states along the Caribbean coast that favored the accord by large margins due to heavy rainfall caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean.
Opponents of the accord, led by powerful former President Alvaro Uribe, said if the accord failed to pass the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia should return to the negotiating table. Opponents specifically want to renegotiate provisions that would spare jail time for rebel leaders who confess war crimes. Santos has ruled out reopening talks but he may be forced to reconsider. The FARC, who never wanted the referendum in the first place, have also said the accord as negotiated is the best one possible for Colombia.
WILL FIGHTING RESUME?
The FARC have made clear they want to abandon their half-century armed struggle. For now, a bilateral cease-fire remains in place and neither side is interested in a return to hostilities. In their first statement since results came in, the FARC on Twitter said, “The love we feel in our hearts is gigantic and with our words and actions will be able to reach peace.”
This is major blow to Santos, who staked his entire presidency on bringing an end to a conflict that has killed 220,000 people and left almost 8 million displaced.