Sometimes the people know better. That’s the political rallying cry across the globe in 2016. The populations of many nation-states around the world have grown quite dissatisfied with the way their respective governments are doing their job lately. We saw it in Germany when voters made their displeasure with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies known. It was evident in the United Kingdom during the Brexit referendum which passed by a comfortable margin. And of course, we are seeing it here in the United States with the emergence of anti-establishment presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Now add Colombia to the list. On Sunday, the Colombian people narrowly rejected a peace deal that would have ended the conflict between the Colombian government and FARC, the largest rebel group in the country. The rejection came as a surprise to many observers and politicians, especially considering that recent polls indicated the deal would meet approval by a large margin. The results of the referendum will prove to be a defeat and embarrassment for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. After long periods of negotiating, Santos and FARC finally reached an agreement. It was the terms of the agreement, though, that left a bad taste in the mouths of many Colombians.
The conflict between the government and FARC has been raging for 52 years. During this time the insurgent group has committed countless killings and kidnappings across the country. The scars of FARC attacks are embedded in the Columbian landscape and in the hearts and minds of its citizens. Under the peace deal, most FARC members would have received amnesty. A slim majority of Colombians felt this made the agreement to lenient and lacking justice.
What happens next remains to be seen. Neither side desires a return to the fighting that has been going on for over a half-century. Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Lodono will likely go back to the negotiating table to hammer out a new peace deal that the Colombian people will find acceptable. The cease-fire that was put in place during the previous round of negotiations will remain in place for the short term.
In any case, the people of Colombia have been heard and now it is the responsibility of their leaders to craft a peace deal that is acceptable to them.