Colombia: Court backs referendum on peace deal with FARC

Colombia: Court backs referendum on peace deal with FARC

Colombia: Court backs referendum on peace deal with FARC

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a Presidential address in Bogota, Colombia, July 18, 2016. REUTERS photo

Colombia’s constititutional court gave its approval on July 18 for a popular referendum on a historic peace deal being negotiated with FARC rebels.

“There is a green light for us, the Colombian people, to approve the peace deal with our votes,” President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The top court held more than eight hours of deliberations before giving its go-ahead to a government bill on the plebiscite, which has already been approved by Congress.

The Colombian government and the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are in the final phase of four years of talks that it is hoped will result in a peace deal putting to an end a half-a-century of conflict.

The rebels last month signed a cease-fire and disarmament deal with the government, with the aim of becoming a political party.

The government said it hoped to move on to a full peace deal within weeks.

Alejo Vargas, an analyst at the National University’s Center for Reflection and Monitoring of the Peace Dialogues, has said government supporters of the peace deal are in the majority. 

In a referendum, he estimated, “up to 70 percent would vote ‘Yes.’”

A unit of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, the Armando Rios First Front, said July 6 that it will not lay down arms or demobilize under the potential peace deal with the government.

Columbia’s ambassador to Turkey expressed July 11 high hopes for the eventual outcome of the peace deal being negotiated. 

“The conflict in Colombia with FARC, it [has been going on for] more or less 55 years,” the ambassador said in an exclusive interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.