Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today. It was a fitting honor for a man who put his political career on the line to help bring an end to the longest running civil war in the western hemisphere.
The war pitted the Marxist FARC guerrillas against the government and lasted 52 years. Over 200,000 people were killed and millions displaced. But since taking office six years ago Santos vowed to bring the war to an end. He negotiated a ceasefire, which is holding to this day. And then in a ceremony attended by Ban Ki Moon and other international dignitaries in late September he and the longtime leader of the FARC signed a formal peace deal.
Santos pledged to put the deal to a popular referendum. But earlier this week a peace plan that looked assured of succeeding was dealt a significant blow when Colombian voters rejected the painstakingly negotiated peace plan.
Why would voters do such a thing? And what happens now that voters have rejected it? I put these questions to Medellin based journalist James Bargent, who has reported on the conflict in Colombia and peace process for years. He describes what the peace plan actually entailed, the political divisions in the country that lead to its narrow defeat, and what comes next now that the peace deal failed.
One point that Bargent stressed is that negotiations will be re-opened, but not only between Santos and the FARC. Rather, Santos must now negotiate with rejectionist elements in Colombia, lead by former President Alvaro Uribe — a right leaning politician who is Santos’ key political rival. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Santos at this time may strengthen his hand just as these negotiations are being opened.
If you have 20 minutes and want to understand the peace deal and the political implications of its failure to pass a popular referendum last week, have a listen.