Colombian president opens door to popular vote on FARC peace deal
By Helen Murphy | January 17, 2013 9:42 AM EST
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday opened the door to a popular vote on any peace accord negotiated and signed with FARC rebels, but rejected a guerrilla demand to change the constitution if a deal is clinched.
Talks to bring an end to Latin America's longest-running insurgency began in Cuba in November, when the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, sat down for the first round of a five-point peace agenda.
Ivan Marquez, head of the Marxist FARC negotiating team, has called for a national assembly to change Colombia's constitution and ensure any agreements would be set in stone.
The drug-funded group, which has fought successive governments since 1964 and killed tens of thousands, reiterated their demand on Tuesday. But Santos rejected the idea.
"It's very possible that we could find a way to seek popular approval for any accord," Santos said during an address in the Norte de Santander province. "That's still to be discussed. But I want it to be very clear that we will not end these agreements with a national assembly."
Santos has ruled out discussing major changes to Colombia's economic or political model, saying that if the guerrillas want to modify the system, they should run for election.
CEASEFIRE TO BE LIFTED
More than 20 years ago, Colombia held a nationwide assembly to rewrite the 1886 constitution. Demobilized rebels from smaller groups participated, but not the FARC or the National Liberation Army, another left-wing group.
Harvard-educated Santos urged the FARC on Wednesday to keep discussions between negotiators strictly confidential until the accords are reached.
"The dialogue has to be serious. It has to be a discreet dialogue," said Santos, 61. "Only when there are agreements, important advances ... only when those advances exist will we inform the public, the national and international community."
The FARC was angered by a recent newspaper column written by Santos' brother, who detailed the background of his involvement in the secret negotiations to bring the two sides to the table. The FARC threatened to ignore a confidentiality agreement during the negotiations.
As defence minister under former President Alvaro Uribe and later as Colombia's leader, Santos has dealt the group some of its biggest blows, killing senior leaders and hitting units responsible for financing operations.
The FARC has said it will lift its two-month-long unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, raising concern a re-energized group will launch new attacks against military and civilian targets.
Negotiations were formally launched on October 18, but the talks got off to a rocky start after the guerrillas said they wanted to discuss a range of topics not mentioned on the agenda.
(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball,; editing by Philip Barbara and Stacey Joyce)
Most Popular Slideshows
- Taylor Swift Named Forbes' Second Highest Paid Country Musician [PHOTOS]
- Forever Lost: Indescribable Anguish for Malaysia Airlines MH17 Families, Remains of Some Victims May Never Be Found (PHOTOS)
- Global Aviation Accidents: UN to Form Safety Task Force, Gov'ts Should Share Intelligence Info to Avert Future Incidents on Flying Over Warzones (PHOTOS)
- PageSix: Beyonce & Jay Z Union is Not About Love, All About Business & the Brand
Join the Conversation
- Tourre on stand says email in SEC case 'not accurate'
- Syrian authorities blocking access to needy in Homs - Red Cross
- Faith in European Union at low ebb, EU poll says
- Former UBS banker gets 18 months, $1 million fine, for muni bid-rigging scheme
- U.S. judge halts challenges to Detroit's bankruptcy bid
- Samsung Galaxy S5 Alpha Leaks Online: Release Date, Five Features to Wait for New Smart Phone
- Photos of Motorola Moto X+1 Prototype and Specs Leak Online, Release Date, Four Fresh Features Revealed
- Sony Xperia Z3: Release Date, Five Features to Expect from New Android Smart Phone
- Freshly Leaked Apple iPad Air 2 Cases Confirm Touch ID Sensor; Release Date, Limited Specs and Price Listed
- Top Surprising Features Of iOS 8
- Top 4 Reasons Why iPhone 6 Will Hit Big Soon After its Sept 2014 Release Date
- Twin Malaysia Airlines MH370, MH17 Aviation Disasters Create Phobia Among Travellers