On October 2nd, The Colombian people voted to decide whether the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish) would become official. Despite the expectations of most, the deal failed to pass by a margin of .43%. Analysts explain this outcome as a result of 62.6% of voters failing to show up for voting and the strong conservative opposition concentrated in major cities. The ceasefire between the government and the FARC will remain until a new treaty is negotiated.
Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos negotiated the peace treaty with Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, the leader of FARC, in August. However, the treaty also included many socially liberal changes that FARC demanded. Among these demands were respect for LGBT communities and the legalization of abortion, both of which conservatives refused to approve. These conservatives also feel the terrorist organization’s members would be let off too easily, as the treaty did not include a punishment for the group’s militants. Congresswoman Ángela Hernández, celebrating the failure to pass the treaty, publicly declared that the outcome was a miracle, and that the family and God’s recognition should always be first. She also declared her fear that if the treaty went through, the government would have the means to target Christians for their outspoken dialogue on homosexuality.
The FARC originally rose as a Marxist paramilitary organization in 1964, during a time when radical liberals and conservatives constantly fought each other in Colombia. During the 80’s, the FARC gained more influence and began expanding to urban regions, proclaiming itself as the army of the people, and attempting to create a communist state. After a failed ceasefire attempt in 1984, the FARC and the Colombian army have been fighting guerrilla wars in the rural regions. The FARC is also known to participate in kidnapping, drug trafficking and illegal mining in order to fund its activities. This ongoing conflict has claimed over 200 thousand lives, many of which have been civilian.
The voting in favor of the treaty clustered on the more rural areas on the outermost regions of the country—regions where the FARC has more influence—while the vote against the treaty fell on the more urban, central regions of Colombia.