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Colombia’s government and Marxist rebels signed a new peace accord over the weekend in a fresh bid to end a five-decade conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced 7m.
The deal comes after voters rejected an original agreement in a referendum last month, plunging the South American country into uncertainty.
“This new agreement is a better agreement,” President Juan Manuel Santos said. “In hindsight, the plebiscite’s result opened up the opportunity to unite us.”
The shock referendum result left Mr Santos’s peace deal with the hemisphere’s oldest insurgency in tatters. It also strengthened Álvaro Uribe, the former president, who led the No campaign to an unexpected, razor-thin victory.
Mr Uribe, capitalising on deep Colombian resentment against the rebels and their human rights abuses, had argued that the peace pact was too lenient on rebel leaders.
Since the referendum, there have been intense, nonstop negotiations between the government of Mr Santos, who last month won the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Uribe’s emissaries and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc.
“We’ve made our biggest effort to respond to the longings for peace, and we have fulfilled our part,” said Farc’s lead negotiator, Iván Márquez.
The changes in the new agreement include an inventory of rebel assets, which will be used to compensate victims, and scrapping the inclusion of the peace accord in the constitution. The new deal also removes foreign magistrates from tribunals, guarantees “judicial security” for the military, and requires the guerrillas to turn in “exhaustive and detailed” information about any involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Humberto De la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator, said: “This accord is better insofar it resolves many criticisms and dissatisfaction … Like the first one, it will not have unanimous acceptance, but we hope it will have more solid support.”
But Mr Uribe cautioned that his democratic centre party first needed to examine the fresh agreement, which should be open to modification. “They will study it and then make known … requested changes,” he said.
Still, analysts said they could not envisage there being a third accord if Mr Uribe did not approve this one. “Santos didn’t mention there will be a fresh referendum, so the only option to implement this new deal would be without [one],” said Jorge Restrepo, a Bogotá-based conflict analyst. Leaders of the No vote have said pushing through a new accord with only cosmetic changes would divide the country.
Washington has long supported Colombia’s fight against the Farc and drug traffickers, through alternating Republican and Democrat administrations. Mr Santos said he had spoken to US president-elect Donald Trump on Friday, and that they “agreed to strengthen the strategic and special relationship between Colombia and the US”.
One bone of contention — rebel leaders’ participation in politics — remains intact. “The reason for all peace processes worldwide is precisely for guerrillas to leave the weapons behind so they can do politics legally,” Mr Santos explained.
Iván Duque, a senator who was appointed by Mr Uribe to negotiate with the government, warned on Twitter that “to deny political eligibility to criminals is a constitutional principle. To allow it without them having paid a sentence is an insult to the rule of law. We should read the new agreements with a magnifying glass.”
Mr Duque, an economist, is also one of the most vocal critics of Mr Santos’ unpopular tax reform proposals to compensate for the loss of oil income following the fall in energy prices. He needs the politically charged overhaul to bolster public accounts to pay for the peace and maintain investment-grade credit rating.
Still, internationally, Mr Santos’s peace effort continues to receive support. Last week the UN began monitoring Colombia’s ceasefire, and on Saturday US secretary of state John Kerry congratulated Colombia on achieving a revised peace agreement, vowing his country would “continue to support full implementation” of the deal.
Following the US election victory of Donald Trump, who has promised an “America First” agenda, uncertainty lies on what support the incoming American administration would offer. However, Mr Santos is said to be on good terms with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, tipped for a senior post in the incoming government.
The president said that thanks to Mr Giuliani he spoke to Mr Trump on Friday, and that they “agreed to strengthen the strategic and special relationship between Colombia and the US”.