Colombia’s Congress approved a bill on Wednesday that would allow any final peace deal with rebel group FARC to be determined by a popular vote. The FARC expressed frustration saying that the decision was “unilateral.”
Congress approved a controversial bill Wednesday evening that says that any peace deal reached between the FARC and Colombia will result in a referendum. This idea-quickly-turning-reality has been strongly praised by the government’s delegations from its initial suggestion in August, and strongly admonished by the FARC’s delegation from the start as well.
Even though the first draft of the bill was submitted in the beginning of September, FARC spokesman spoke out very vocally Wednesday evening expressing the guerrilla group’s frustration at the government’s “unilateral” decision to push this plan through congress in the wake of Wednesday’s vote.
“The theme [of implementation] is the sixth agenda item during these talks, and [we’re still on the second!]… what is important that we come to positions that we both agree on,” said FARC ‘Foreign Minister’ and spokesman Rodrigo Granada, alias “Ricardo Tellez.”
This particular argument comes at an interesting time as the government has been criticizing the FARC for bringing up points that were not initially part of the agenda. The rebel group this week proposed 99 new points within the second agenda item of political participation.
The FARC reaffirmed that instead of a referendum on a deal, they would like to call a National Constituent Assembly if any peace agreement is reached with the intent to either rewrite, reform or recreate a new Constitution.
“In our opinion, a National Constituent Assembly not only continues to make valid sense but each day it gains more strength and popular support,” insisted Tellez.
In 1991, when Colombia’s current constitution was formed by a National Constituent Assembly, the recently demobilized M-19 guerrilla group represented nearly 30% of all of the delegates at the meeting. The FARC has pointed to this example as a good guide for what could happen after peace talks in Havana, Cuba conclude.
In response to government criticism that the FARC has been slowing down the peace process, Tellez responded, “These peace talks are dynamic, but they are not a car that you can accelerate whenever you want…there has to be progress toward an agreement that is handled seriously with the responsibility of the future of Colombia.”
The FARC’s ‘Foreign Minister’ also criticized the media in his statement Wednesday, saying that news outlets such as the popular magazine, Semana, only publish very biased information excluding the FARC’s perspectives and proposals. Tellez asserted that such news sources are, “far from being constructive, and in fact do not aid to the construction of peace in the country.”
In spite of both delegation’s criticisms, the FARC did allow that the peace dialogues have resulted in much progress, “more than in the entire history of the country,” but Colombia is largely ignorant about the progress and there is still more work to be done.
The peace talks between the government and the FARC have just entered their 16th cycle and only one of six agenda items have been agreed upon thus far. The one-year anniversary of the start of these peace talks is approaching quickly in the third week of November.