Colombians have been living under a bloody war between their government and the FARC, the country’s biggest guerrilla group, for 50 years.
On Oct. 2 they get to choose whether to put an end to it in a plebiscite to approve or reject a peace deal hammered out by the quarreling sides over the past four years in Havana, Cuba.
A good third of them are going to vote “no.” A survey commissioned by media outlets Caracol Radio and Red + Noticias at the beginning of this week puts the naysayers at 38% (Spanish) and polling firm Datexco counts 36.6%.
It may seem surprising that after so much destruction and death—nearly a million people have been killed during the conflict—such a large portion of Colombian society is considering anything but a resounding “yes” on Sunday. But it is precisely the war’s brutal violence that explains why some don’t want to sign on to peace—or, at least, not to the peace negotiated by president Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, which is underpinned by an innovative justice system under which those who tell the truth will have to pay some kind of restitution but can avoid jail time.
That’s not tough enough for many, including former president Alvaro Uribe, a loud voice on the “vote no” campaign. Uribe has said his father was murdered by the FARC, though they have disputed (Spanish) the claim. He and others also object to a provision in the agreement that guarantees the FARC at least 10 seats in congress for two election cycles once they put their arms aside and become a political party.
The plebiscite, wrote Uribe on Twitter, “is the only opportunity to correct the agreements with which Santos is rewarding the FARC. For my country, I VOTE NO.”
A “no” win, proponents say, would force Santos back to the negotiating table to get a better deal (Spanish.) Both the FARC (Spanish) and the government (Spanish) have said there’s no chance of that. It’s take it or leave it, they’ve told the Colombian people.
“Enough already of losing generations of Colombians. Mothers were asking that 17 years ago when my daughter made her first communion. #YesToPeace.”
Meanwhile, the most compelling argument for a “yes” vote might come from those involved in the fighting. In an account on Colombian news site La Silla Vacía (Spanish,) an army soldier narrates how he had to walk through minefields and recover bodies dismembered by them; how he came across massacred civilian victims and watched a fellow soldier die in his arms.
The title of his story: “I want to tell those who promote war that they don’t have the slightest idea of what it is.”