When they go to the polls Sunday, Colombian voters are expected to endorse the landmark peace agreement signed this week by the government and the country’s most important rebel group. If that happens, it will be despite the formidable efforts of former President Alvaro Uribe. He has waged an aggressive campaign to kill the deal, rallying opponents ranging from victims rights groups to wealthy ranchers. Their main complaint is that the deal’s “transitional justice” treats the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — the guerrilla group known as FARC — too leniently for horrific crimes committed over decades of war. Those who confess to murders, kidnappings, terror attacks and other atrocities would face maximum sentences of eight years of “restricted liberty,” a form of house arrest, in the 23 “relocation zones,” the rural reserves where rebels will move once they give up their weapons.
“Triumphant terrorism has achieved its entire agenda,” 64-year-old Uribe told hundreds of supporters Monday at a rally outside the convention hall in Cartagena, where President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leaders signed the peace deal.
Technically, the accord took effect immediately after it was signed. The plebiscite Sunday is considered an advisory vote without legal teeth. But the political fallout from a popular rejection of the deal likely would kill the agreement. Santos has said he needs public backing before launching the multibillion-dollar process of integrating rebels into society by giving them land and job training.
If voters reject the deal, he has said, he will resume a 52-year-old civil war that has cost 220,00 lives and displaced an estimated 7 million people.