If the peace agreement that the government of Colombia has negotiated with armed revolutionaries is voted down by the Colombian people, the country would again be plunged into conflict and the guerrillas would engage in urban warfare, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos warned in a session on the peace plan at the World Economic Forum on Latin America.
The country’s Constitutional Court is currently considering a proposed plebiscite on the accord. If Colombians reject the agreement, “we will go back to the state of war,” Santos declared. He expressed confidence that “the vast majority of Colombians” would vote for the deal. “We will bring an end to the war and all of the Americas will be a territory of peace.” The peace agreement would end one of the longest civil conflicts in the world, which has lasted nearly 60 years and resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 people.
President Santos assured participants that his government conducted the negotiations from a position of strength and that in no way was he easy on the insurgents. The agreement includes programmes for rural development, he noted. But the government would have undertaken these initiatives, including the building of schools, roads and hospitals, whether or not the rebels were involved.
“We are not building a policy just for FARC (as the main revolutionary group is known),” Santos argued. “This is a policy to benefit farmers and all the people who work the land.” The agreement involves the demobilization of the rebels, who will lay down their arms, and their reintegration into society. Another key measure is the investigation of atrocities in the pursuit of truth and justice in tandem with reconciliation. “This is not a peace with impunity,” Santos asserted. “There is no such thing.”
In answer to a question, the president stressed that all but one of the opposition political parties in the country were involved in the peace process. “This isn’t just my peace,” he explained. Remarking on the potential for the peace agreement to succeed, Felipe González Márquez, Prime Minister of Spain from 1982 to 1996, asked participants to consider the economic opportunities that the end of the insurgency would provide Colombia. “We have Colombia growing at 3% with an armed conflict. Can you imagine what the potential is without it?” Added González: “I hope it happens soon. We are in a hurry in every sense of the word.”
More than 550 participants are taking part in the 11th World Economic Forum on Latin America in Medellin, Colombia from 16 to 17 June 2016. The theme of the meeting is “Reigniting Latin America’s Inclusive Growth”.