No ‘Plan B’

Colombia faces uncertainty after voters unexpectedly rejected a peace deal between the government and Marxist guerrillas that was hammered out during four years of talks in Cuba. President Juan Manuel Santos had said there was no “Plan B” in case of defeat.

What happened?

Colombians narrowly nixed the deal by 50.2 per cent to 49.8 per cent, with nearly two thirds of voters abstaining. Santos and the leader of The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, had already signed the peace pact last week at a ceremony attended by regional heads of state and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The referendum result followed at least three polls published last week predicting the deal would pass by 60 per cent or more.

Turnout in the Caribbean coast, which overwhelmingly backed the deal, was even lower than the national average as the area was hit by rain caused by Hurricane Matthew, according to electoral authorities.

What was in the agreement?

The deal would have guaranteed the Farc ten seats in Congress between 2018 and 2026, agricultural reform and reduced sentences for crimes committed, in return for handing in their weapons to UN monitors. A “yes” vote would have given the green light for the guerrillas to start the demobilisation process and convert themselves into a legal political party.

What happens next?

There’s no immediate prospect of a return to all-out violence. Santos said the bilateral ceasefire will hold, and he will continue to seek a negotiated settlement. Farc leader Rodrigo Londono told local radio stations the group retains a willingness to use words rather than weapons, and that “peace will triumph.” Santos is sending his negotiating team to Cuba on Monday to meet with the Farc. He’ll also call a meeting of all parties, including former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Centre Party, to try to work how to proceed.

A timeline of the conflict

May 1964: Rebel leader Manuel Marulanda, alias “Tirofijo,” founds Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc.

Aug. 7, 1982: Government of President Belisario Betancur starts peace negotiations with Farc.

June 1987: Tenuous-at-best ceasefire wounded when rebels attack kills 25 soldiers in southern Colombia.

April 1991: Farc, along with fellow rebel groups National Liberation Army and Popular Liberation Army, sit down for talks with government delegates in Venezuela. Talks are later moved to Mexico.

October 1992: Negotiations end with no agreement.

August 1998: President Andres Pastrana announces new peace effort with Farc. Sets up Switzerland-sized demilitarised zone in southern Colombia where talks can be held.

Feb. 20, 2002: Rebels hijack plane and take captive a senator who is member of peace commission. Pastrana breaks off negotiations and orders security forces to return to the demilitarised zone.

December 2004: Undercover Colombian agents capture Rodrigo Granda, considered Farc’s “foreign minister,” in Venezuela and move him to Colombia.

Aug. 16, 2007: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offers to mediate between Farc and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Effort collapses few months later.

March 1, 2008: Farc Secretariat member known by alias Raul Reyes killed in Colombian air attack on his clandestine guerrilla camp in neighbouring Ecuador.

March 26, 2008: Top Farc leader Marulanda dies of natural causes after more than four decades fighting government.

Sept. 22, 2010: No. 2 Farc commander and top military strategist Jorge Briceno, alias Mono Jojoy, killed by air strike.

Nov. 4, 2011: Top Farc commander Gullermo Saenz, alias Alfonso Cano, killed in attack by military.

Feb. 26, 2012: Farc renounces kidnapping for extortion and frees all military officers in captivity.

Aug. 12, 2012: President Juan Manuel Santos announces new peace talks with Farc. They begin two months later in Oslo, Norway, and later move to Havana.

Aug. 24, 2016: Santos’ government and Farc announce peace accord.

Sept. 23, 2016: Farc leaders pledge their unanimous support to the accord after a week of deliberations on a remote savannah in southern Colombia.

Sept. 26, 2016: Santos and Farc’s top commander formally sign accord before regional heads of state, UN secretary-general and US secretary of state.

Oct. 2, 2016: Colombian voters narrowly reject the accord.