October 5, 2016 By FTI Consulting
The result of the Colombian referendum on the peace agreement caught the world by surprise. The deal signed by the Santos government and the FARC rebels was rejected by a razor-thin margin – about 54,000 voters in a country of 48 million people – with a less than 40% turnout.
Here are the main political risk takeaways you should know:
The peace process is not dead and the negotiations will very likely resume soon. On Sunday, FARC-EP reacted to the result by saying that it is still determined to fight “with words rather than weapons” and later the group’s leader, Rodrigo Lodoño (aka Timochenko), assured that peace “had come to stay”. President Juan Manuel Santos’ top negotiator offered to resign, but was sent back to Havana to talk to FARC leaders – a sign that the president is not planning to radically change its negotiation strategy. At the same time, Santos appointed a team of trusted advisors – led by his ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations – to start talks with leaders close to senator and former president Álvaro Uribe.
If both sides agree on reopening the negotiations, the key issues will be punishment and political representation for FARC leaders. According to the existing deal, FARC leaders facing accusations as serious as war crimes would escape harsher punishment and the group would have reserved seats in Congress. It is very unclear if Timochenko will ever accept harsher conditions and less power for his group. Furthermore, if Timochenko is internally seen as “weak”, lower-ranking insurgents may rebel against his authority and break the FARC’s chain of command. The FARC’s fragmentation would be a nightmare scenario for all parts committed to ending the hostilities.
Former President Álvaro Uribe has reemerged as the gravitational center of Colombian politics and is already seizing the opportunity to expand his influence beyond the peace negotiations. Uribe is explicitly suggesting that the victory of the “No” also puts into question economic and “moral” policies adopted by the Santos government. It appears that his strategy is to portray the Sunday vote as a much broader referendum on the Santos administration.
The Santos government will very likely continue to pursue this goal regardless of the Sunday vote. For more intelligence on Colombia, visit our Geopolitical Intelligence page >