Colombian govt and FARC reach deal to end five decades long civil war

Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reach deal to end half-century of bloodshed.

HAVANA, CUBA (AUGUST 24, 2016) (REUTERS) – Colombia’s government and Marxist FARC rebels reached a final peace deal on Wednesday (August 24) to end a five-decade war which once took the resource-rich country to the brink of collapse.

Under the historic agreement to end one of the world’s longest conflicts, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will lay down arms and reintegrate into civilian life.

FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez joked with government chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle.

“There is white smoke from the conclave in Havana, Doctor Humberto de la Calle, ‘habemus pax.’ We have peace. Long live Colombia! Long live peace!” he said, referring to the Vatican tradition of sending white smoke into the air when a new pope is elected.

De la Calle hailed the agreement.

“Today, we have reached the finishing line: the signing of a final agreement with the FARC guerrillas. It is the end of the armed conflict. The best way to beat war was sitting down and talking about peace. The war is over. But there is also a new beginning: this agreement opens the possibilities to initiate a transformative era in Colombian society,” he said.

More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict, tens of thousands disappeared and millions fled their homes because of the violence.

“On behalf of the FARC, I address the nations of the world and ask the peoples and their governments to stand in solidarity with us, to back us in every sense so that the continent’s most prolonged conflict will become a guidepost and a matter of the past that people will not repeat. To the United States government that for so long supported the State’s war against the guerrilla and against social unconformity, we ask that you continue to back in a transparent way efforts by Colombians to re-establish peace,” said Marquez.

The accord, which was reached after almost four years of talks in Cuba, will now go to a plebiscite vote on October 2.

De la Calle praised the FARC and told Colombians that they have an obligation of voting in October.

“From the opposite shores, we should recognize the FARC for their work discipline. They were complex conversations, sometimes sour, but the result is sufficient reward. We have fulfilled the promise that President Santos gave at the beginning: Colombians will have the last word. The future of Colombia is at play. No one can remove themselves from the obligation of deciding. The final agreement of the conflict has no owner. It does not belong to the parties. It does not belong to the government. It does not belong to the FARC. It belongs to Colombians.”

President Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected in 2014 on the promise of a peace deal.

Most opinion polls suggest Colombians will back the deal but Santos, who has staked his legacy on peace, will face fierce opposition from powerful sectors of the country who believe the only solution is to finish the FARC militarily

The deal is opposed by two former Colombian presidents, including popular right-wing hardliner Alvaro Uribe.