Government in Colombia, FARC rebels start renegotiating peace deal

October 23, 2016 6:00 pm

People walk over a huge sheet of cloths with the names of victims of the Colombian conflict stitched together, at the Bolivar Square in Bogota, , October 11, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The government in Colombia and the main rebel group in the country have started talks on redrafting a peace agreement that  was rejected in a referendum earlier this month.   
Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia () rebels met on Saturday in the Cuban capital of Havana, where they previously spent four years negotiating the original deal.
The Saturday negotiations were described by the government side as “constructive,” and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, said on his Twitter page, “It’s an optimistic atmosphere,” adding that the sides are “trying to find common ground.”
War and hard-fought peace
The two sides had found common ground when they signed off on the peace deal last September, but their hopes for ending nearly five decades of civil war were dashed after the deal was put to a referendum on October 2. While it was largely anticipated to comfortably win final approval, the agreement was shockingly rejected by a narrow margin of 0.04 percent.
Bogota and the FARC rebels agreed to renegotiate the terms of the pact as the only way to save it and the hard-fought peace that it had promised to introduce.
President Juan Manuel Santos was forced to extend a ceasefire under the deal until December 31, hoping to have a new agreement for peace before that date.
Santos was awarded the Nobel prize for peace for his efforts to secure the deal anyway.

A demonstrator dons a mask with the word “peace” written on it in Spanish during a march for peace in Bogota, Colombia, October 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Colombian president, whose term will end in mid-2018, has vowed to salvage the deal and continue seeking peace “until the last minute” of his term. He launched the original negotiations with the rebel group after taking office in 2010.
The group’s estimated 7,000 fighters were scheduled to begin handing over their weapons to UN observers in six months and reintegrate into civilian life under the deal.
The FARC rebel group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight against perceived deep economic and social inequalities, now controls large swathes of ’s third most-populous country.
The decades-long conflict with the central government has left as many as 260,000 people dead, more than six million others displaced, and still 45,000 others missing.
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