Colombian voters rejected a peace deal with the terrorist group FARC in a Sunday referendum by a narrow 50.2 to 49.8 percent margin.
Former President Alvaro Uribe led the campaign to shoot down the accord, which was approved in June and was sent to the voters.
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia was added to the State Department’s terror list in 1997 and has held hundreds of hostages over the past few years. U.S. victims include three missionaries murdered in 1999 and three Defense Department contractors held for more than five years before their 2008 rescue.
FARC operations have killed some quarter million people since the guerrilla group launched in the 1960s.
Bogota’s City Paper reported that the vote was decidedly divided between rural and urban areas and between the interior of the country and outlying regions, with municipalities along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and the border region with Venezuela voting for the accord. These overwhelmingly “yes” areas have had a strong FARC presence — and have suffered most from FARC attacks — over the decades.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stressed that the United States needs to respect the will of Colombian voters; Secretary of State John Kerry has met with the FARC and hinted at removing the Marxist guerrillas from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
“Ultimately, it’s the Colombian people who will decide what an acceptable end to decades of conflict with the FARC should look like and, according to them, this agreement was not it,” Rubio said. “In the coming days, weeks and months ahead, it is my hope the lessons learned from the Colombian people through this process can be applied to eventually bring this conflict to a formal end.”
“The FARC remains a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions within Colombia,” the senator added. “Any peace agreement with such an organization must have the backing of a majority of the Colombian people and be fair to the victims of the many atrocities committed by the FARC.”
Tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.): “Castro and FARC did their evil best but Colombian ppl voted NO to sweetheart deal for narcoterrorists that had no jail, no extradition.”
The congresswoman congratulated Colombians on “rejecting agreement of impunity to narco-terrorists with guarantee of political power to FARC.”
Ros-Lehtinen added that the “majority of Colombians in the United States voted against the agreement.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby issued a statement commending Colombia “for the democratic process held yesterday” with a caveat that “difficult decisions are going to have to be taken in the days ahead.”
“President Santos, FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, and opposition leader Alvaro Uribe have all indicated their commitment to achieve peace, and to work together in an inclusive manner to do so. Colombians have expressed their commitment to settle their differences through institutions and dialogue rather than violence,” Kirby said.
“Colombia can count on the continued support of the United States as it continues to seek democratic peace and prosperity for all Colombians. We support President Santos’ proposal for unity of effort in support of a broad dialogue as the next step towards achieving a just and lasting peace.”