Plebiscite for Peace Agreement in Colombia

Decreto numero 1391 — Convócase al pueblo de Colombia para el domingo 2 de octubre de 2016, en ejercicio de su soberanía. decida si apoya o rechaza el Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción una Paz Estable y Duradera.

This past June, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, and the leader of FARC (Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia) Rodrigo Londoño, met in Havana, Cuba to sign a cease fire agreement for a conflict that has plagued Colombia for over fifty years. This war has directly or indirectly affected all Colombians. There have been innumerable murders, kidnappings, and other atrocities committed during this time. Peace is something we all want. Peace is something the country needs. It’s time to put an end to the kidnappings, the extortions, and the killings. Enough Colombian blood has been spilled over the past fifty years.

But of course, bringing an end to a conflict this long is not a simple undertaking. Even though president Santos and FARC leader Londoño have signed the agreement, it still has to be voted on by the Colombian people. The peace treaty hasn’t been received with open arms by all Colombians. That doesn’t mean that the people that are against this agreement are against peace. This is an important distinction to note because many proponents of this peace agreement have used that fallacy to denigrate those that are against it. Even though we all want peace, we don’t all want the provisions that are in this particular agreement for a number reasons, including that it is estimated that most guerrillas will receive amnesty for their crimes and face no jail time or convictions. Such a thing is not easy to accept for people that have been victims to their acts of terrorism. On October 2nd Colombians will have the opportunity to vote yes or no in the following national plebiscite to adopt the treaty:

Do you support the final agreement for the termination of the conflict and the construction of a lasting and stable peace?

I’m not here to convince anyone to vote one way or the other. We all have our reasons why we are in favor or against this agreement. I was very disappointed this morning when I read how this question was formulated (it’s not an exact translation per se, but that’s a pretty close approximation to the original). It asks if you are in favor of “the termination of the conflict” and a “lasting and stable peace”.

Well, when phrased that way, obviously we all want an end to the conflict and we want to see a “lasting and stable peace” BUT that isn’t what we’re voting for by agreeing with this plebiscite. We are voting to ratify an agreement that is almost 300 pages long. The above question is a grotesque oversimplification of that agreement and it’s insulting to a Colombian people that have already suffered enough. Formulating the question in this way leaves the impression that those that vote no are against the peace, which is simply not true. It’s a misleading question. And what exactly is meant by “lasting and stable peace” anyway? How can something like that be guaranteed? That’s what we all want, but let’s be clear, this agreement only includes FARC. What about the other terrorist groups? How are we going to have “lasting and stable peace” if we’re only engaging one of the many terrorist groups that operate in our country?

Now, I understand the desire for peace. I understand why so many people want and are in favor of this agreement. I also want to see peace in Colombia, but there are sections of this agreement that don’t sit well with me. I still haven’t decided whether or not I will vote yes or no in October, but when a government presents a question to its people in a less than honest manner, and subtly implies that those that vote against it are also against peace, that’s the type of shit that gives me pause.


By law the minimum number of votes required for a “yes” to approve the agreement is approximately 4.5 million, which equates to 13% of the potential electorate. In case the “yes” votes don’t meet that marker or the “no” votes surpass them, the agreement with FARC will not be able to be implemented. El Tiempo


The original article, written in Spanish, can be found here.

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