The Colombian legislature has passed an updated version of the peace accord proposed by President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, over protests from opposition legislators who say it is unconstitutional to agree to such a deal without a democratic vote.
After the Colombian people rejected a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — a Marxist terrorist group that has killed or disappeared hundreds of thousands of people in the past half-century — Santos sent his negotiators back to Havana. Cuba’s communist government has afforded the FARC leadership safe haven there. The FARC and Colombian government leaders have agreed on a new deal that opponents say varies very little from the original, though Colombia’s Congress has approved it.
In the Senate, the bill ratifying the provisions of the new FARC deal passed 75-0, while the lower chamber passed the bill 130-0. The bill’s fate is now in the hands of the Colombian Constitutional Court, which will decide whether these provisions are constitutional as legislation (as opposed to a treaty) and whether the legislature can fast-track the bill and avoid debate on the Congressional floor.
While the vote numbers indicate a unanimous vote, many members of Congress opposed the legislation. They chose to walk out rather than vote on it because they consider the process unconstitutional and are instead demanding a second national referendum on the deal.
“The Democratic Center cannot vote for this proposition… because we have already said that what was said – in the Executive branch, in Congress, in the courts – is that we need an endorsement [of the bill] through direct democracy,” Senator Álvaro Uribe, the head of the Democratic Center party and Santos’s predecessor, said, regarding the vote. Democratic Center walked out rather than issuing a vote on the new legislation.
Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who was the Democratic Center’s last presidential candidate against Santos, agreed, adding that he felt the new deal with the FARC did not take into consideration any of their party’s concerns. “Our voices were never heard… they never listened to our ideas in constructing this accord,” he said, according to El Colombiano.
Santos met with Uribe before presenting the latest version of the peace deal, though he has refused to permit a second vote. The new deal, now over 300 pages, includes a number of pages on the importance of “gender equality” and requires the FARC to submit a detailed inventory of the group’s assets to the government. However, it still contains many of the provisions that alarmed its opponents. FARC members will still be able to organize a political party and run for office, and many guilty of “political crimes” – a term the deal only vaguely defines – will not have to serve prison sentences for their terrorist activities. As the first FARC deal failed largely in the
FARC members will still be able to organize a political party and run for office, and many guilty of “political crimes” — a term the deal only vaguely defines — will not have to serve prison sentences for their terrorist activities. As the first FARC deal failed largely in the nation’s rural interior, where the FARC thrived in its pre-Uribe heyday because of the potential amnesty for FARC terrorists, it is unlikely that a second vote would result in passing the latest version.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in Colombia to aid in the establishment of the new Joint Colombia U.S. Council group, told El Tiempo that he supports the deal. “Santos responded to the vote in October, after engaging the ‘No’ vote groups directly and returning to the negotiating table with the FARC,” Biden noted, “thus achieving great improvements in the agreement. This is crucial, because to maximize the opportunity for success, the peace agreement needs as much support as possible from the Colombian people.”