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Colombia's long road to peace

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Colombia's long road to peace

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After 52 years of fighting and four years of negotiations Latin America’s longest running conflict has officially ended.

A formal peace deal for Colombia was signed in the Cuban capital Havana by the government’s chief negotiator and his counterpart in the largest rebel group the FARC.

Colombia’s president then outlined the peace deal in a nationwide TV address. “The FARC will hand in their weapons to the United Nations – on a timetable that has already been announced – within 6 months’ time. All of this, as is well-known, will be verified and monitored by a United Nations commission. This means the FARC will cease to exist and will become a political movement without weapons,” Juan Manuel Santos said.

Around 22,000 people died in the conflict and on hearing news of the peace deal Colombians gathered on the streets of the capital Bogota and celebrated into the night.

“It gives us the possibility to dream and to begin to build and make real what so many people have been working for for a long time and that is to build from peace, from no violence to work through the conflicts in a different way other than weapons,” said one Bogota resident, Ana Maria Salamanca.

Colombians have walked a long road to peace. Talks have failed three times, in 1984, 1991 and 1999, and they still have a vote in a referendum in October on whether to accept the deal.

If they do the disarmament of around 7000 FARC fighters will begin soon after. But many are unaware that more pain is still to come.
Paying for the peace will cost literally billions of dollars, hitting an already over-stretched economy.

Justice will be a sticky subject too. Who will be pardoned and who tried for war crimes? Human Rights Watch says it fears crimes committed by both sides will go unpunished.

Many Colombians want those who committed the worst crimes to go to jail and be prevented from holding public office.

And the government will have to offer an alternative way of earning a living to the drug trade which has kept so many people prosperous in rebel held territory.

It will also have to make land reforms and develop rural areas.

And there’s still a rebel group that is missing from the deal, the ELN or National Liberation Army. They say they want to enter into talks with the government but are still fighting.

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