Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said that the finalised peace deal between the government and the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) may not be signed as planned on 23rd March.
“I will not sign a bad deal just to meet the deadline,” Santos said at a public event yesterday. He opened the possibility of setting a new date if the agreement was not reached, underscoring “I fulfil and sign what is a good deal for the Colombians.”
On 23rd September last year President Santos and FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez, also known as Timochenko, agreed to finalise the peace agreement within a six month deadline. Since then several officials, including a UN official, have expressed their doubts about reaching an agreement by the date.
Former president Álvaro Uribe, one of the harshest critics of Santos and the peace process, earlier recommended not clinging to a date. “If it is necessary to postpone the date it does not matter. The important thing is that the path is rectified,” Uribe said in Washington in late February. He said that the problem is that the deal involves impunity. “We all want peace, I know the pain of people, but you cannot open the possibility of impunity,” he said.
Back in December, in an interview with Noticias Uno, FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich blamed the government for the delay, saying: “We must be clear in saying that on 23rd March there will be no peace.”
The former agriculture minister, who helped draft a rural reform deal with the guerrillas has also expressed serious concerns about the state’s lack of preparation for the implementation of the deals, particularly the rural reform.
The peace talks, that aim to end over 50 years of internal conflict, officially began on 19th November 2012 in Havana.
The current peace talks are following an agenda made up of six points on which negotiators have reached partial agreements. The six points include land reform, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines, as well as illegal drug trafficking.
Before implementation, the final peace deal must be ratified by the public in a formal vote, which will then validate all the previously arranged accords.
The FARC, along with other guerrilla groups, arose as a response to violent government repression of popular progressive movements in the 1950s and 60s. The conflict has drawn in right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers, and several leftist rebel groups, and has left more than 6.7m victims and taken at least 260,000 lives, according to official statistics.