Colombia Government and Left rebels chalk out a deal. Credits: Bip America

Colombia’s government and its largest rebel group signed a modified peace agreement in Havana a few days ago. This comes after an earlier deal was rejected by Colombians in a referendum.

The left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC) and government representatives negotiated a revised plan after the original agreement was narrowly defeated in an open vote by the citizens. The deal was believed to be lenient toward the leftist group which had carried on a rebellion in the country for 52 years and committed murders and kidnappings at will.

“We are convinced that … this document signals a viable and possible way to end so many decades of conflict,” the chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said in a statement at the agreement meeting. De la Calle described the text of the modified accord as ‘much better’ than the previous one.

“The new deal is an opportunity to clear up doubts, but above all to unite us, ” said De la Calle. The agreement was signed with rebel leader Ivan Marquez .

The half-century-long conflict took more than 220,000 lives and rendered almost eight million people homeless.

A few months earlier President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC worked out a deal after four years of negotiations. It was rejected by 55,000 votes in a plebiscite. President Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the conflict. New efforts to save the deal  The president soon started to look for new ways to save the deal. While the rebels were not ready to go back to the drawing board and bring up years of tough negotiations with the government.

Efforts were renewed to work out a new acceptable deal even though the rebels were reluctant to go back to the negotiating table to redraw a modified plan.

“The meetings with the FARC delegation were intense,” said De la Calle. “We worked 15 days and nights to reach this new agreement.” Modifications were made related to justice, punishment for participants in the war crimes and reparations for victims. Drug crimes will be tried out in Colombia’s higher courts.

“We won’t have assigned legislative seats. To the contrary, they will have to participate in elections. Nor will they have positions in government, as has occurred in other cases. But yes they can be elected,” he said. Marquez said, ” The implementation of the accord is all that remains for the construction of the bases for peace in Colombia.”

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated both the groups for the new peace deal. “After 52 years of war, no peace agreement can satisfy everyone in every detail. But this agreement constitutes an important step forward on Colombia’s path to a just and durable peace. The United States, in coordination with the Government of Colombia, will continue to support full implementation of the final peace agreement,” he said in a statement.