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FARC Part 2: Democracy Strikes Back

Source: bbc.com
Source: bbc.com
Source: bbc.com

Nearly a year ago Colombians went to the polls to vote on a historic peace deal with the FARC, an armed revolutionary group. While the referendum on the deal was narrowly rejected, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, decided that he would adjust the deal slightly to deal with concerns and then put it to a vote in parliament. The deal was passed with a resounding majority. Plaudits we submitted from across the globe for Mr Santos. He event won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Story over?

Not quite.

While I am not writing articles about obscure events across the world, I am a till assistant at a popular retail discount chain. Many people from all walks of life stand across from me and occasionally I try to engage them. One day, I found myself talking with someone who told me they were Colombian. Eager to impress, I bought up the FARC and the recent peace deal. However, as soon I mentioned this, anger seemed to ooze out of her. She explained that the Colombian people had voted ‘no’ to the peace deal, and that the President was making a mockery out of their democracy.

This apparently is a popular opinion amongst Colombians. While the rest of us celebrate Mr Santos and his drive toward peace, Colombians are angry. A recent opinion poll put the President at only 17%, lower than his Venezuelan neighbour who has just overseen the collapse of the national economy! With an election looming, it is hardly surprising to see his opponents threaten to rip up the much applauded peace deal.

This has not been the only ramification of the deal. The public spectacle that Colombian has received as a result of this deal has in essence written a blank cheque to the FARC. The government do not want to see a deal which gave them so much prestige threatened. As a result, they seem quite keen to turn a blind eye to the boastful FARC leaders who declare a political victory as they traverse the country. The implementation of the peace deal appears slow as well, which has garnered anger from those who supported the deal in the first place.

Apparently Mr Santos can’t do anything right with 5,000 indigenous Colombians recently marching against the government, claiming they have failed to adhere to the terms agreed in Havana. Not only this but the crisis in neighbouring Venezuela has led to large scale migration which has in turn strained public resources. With citizens allowed to freely move between Colombia and Venezuela, many are visiting Colombia to shop, study and receive healthcare. While the strain has not led to a full blown crisis, it is starting to become a source of anger at a local level.

All things considered, it is not looking good for Mr Santos who was recently labelled as a “great example”  by US President Donald Trump. As his support dwindles, the likelihood of continuation of the conflict with the FARC grows in turn.