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Colombians Voted 'No' to a Historic Peace Deal Yesterday—Here's Why That's Important

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Colombian voters said "no" Sunday to what would have been a groundbreaking peace deal between Colombia and the leftist rebel group, the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

A little over 50 percent of voters voted “No” to reject the peace deal that would have attempted to end half a century years of problems between the country and the rebels, BuzzFeed News reported. According to the BBC, the difference between "yes" and "no" was just 54,000 votes—a tiny percentage of the almost 13 million votes cast.

This was a shock, because polls ahead of time showed that the majority of Colombians supported the peace deal after years of violence. In 2013, the Associated Press reported that 220,000 people had died in the conflict, and that there had been 1,982 massacres between 1980 and 2012. The FARC is a rural guerrilla movement following a Marxist-Leninist ideology, rebelling against the massive inequality that has plagued Colombia for decades. The group was founded in 1962 after the Colombian civil war. 

The BBC points out that in areas hardest hit by the war's violence, residents overwhelmingly voted "yes." For example, in one town where more than 100 people had been killed by a FARC bombing, 98 percent voted "yes." But other areas of the country weren't so sure. Many people felt the peace deal voted on this weekend was allowing the rebels to get away with too much, such as reduced sentences for serious war crimes, according to The New York Times.

Leaders said they would keep working toward peace, even after the discouraging vote.

“Tomorrow I will convene the political forces, in particular the ones in favor of ‘no,’ to listen them and determine which path to follow. … I will not give up,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel during his televised speech following the vote. He has also vowed to continue the ceasefire between the two groups.

FARC is also aiming to work towards passing a peace deal. “The FARC-EP maintain their desire for peace and reiterate their disposition to use only words as a weapon to build the future,” FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez said in a statement.

Despite the almost 50/50 vote among Colombians, turnout for the vote was low—Only 38 percent showed up to vote, which BuzzFeed noted could have been connected to Hurricane Matthew.

It is unclear when Colombia and FARC will present a new peace deal to their people, but after years of conflict, they will have to come to an agreement that Colombians can approve of to bring peace to their nation.


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