Colombia: voters reject FARC peace accord

In Colombia's historic plebiscite Oct. 2, voters narrowly rejected the peace pact with the FARC rebels—a major surprise, as all polls had predicted a landslide victory for the "Yes" option. With 99.08% of the votes counted, the "No" option has received 50.24% of the votes against 49.75% for "Yes." The referendum obtained the necessary votes for it to be valid, despite heavy rainfall across much of the country. The result is a setback for President Juan Manuel Santos, and a victory for ex-president Alvaro Uribe, who led the campaign for a "No" vote. Addressing the nation, President Santos accepted the result but said he would continue working to achieve peace. He stressed that the ceasefire remained in place, and said his negotiators have been ordered to travel to Cuba to consult FARC leaders on the next move. (Colombia Reports, Colombia Reports, BBC News, Oct. 2)

The FARC's renegade 1st Front reportedly tried to disrupt the vote in its area of operations, launching what the Defense Ministry called an "explosive artifact" at a polling station in Barranquillita, Guaviare region. The web page of the National Civil State Registry, the body overseeing the elections, was also hacked by unknown cyber-attackers, although authorities said it did not affect the vote. (Colombia Reports, Oct. 2; El Espectador, Sept. 28)

The results show that areas most affected by the conflict overwhelmingly voted "Yes." In the heavily affected department of Chocó, 79% percent voted "Yes." The Caribbean departments, which include the violence-plagued Urabá region, also voted "Yes." (TeleSur, Oct. 2)

An immediate return to war seems unlikely. FARC negotiator Carlos Antonio Lozada said in the prelude to the vote that a "No" victory would "not mean it has to derail the process [or] lead us to make a decision to return to this painful war." (El Tiempo, Oct. 2)

The vote does place in question the first FARC surrender of weapons, scheduled to take place at Llanos del Yarí, on Colombia's eastern plains. The planned turn-over of the FARC Caribe Bloc's cache of improvised explosives was to be overseen this month by the United Nations. (El Espectador, Sept. 29)