Thousands of farmers, Aboriginal activists and students marched in cities across Colombia on Wednesday to demand a peace deal between the government and leftist rebels not be scuttled.
It is the second time in a week that Colombians are taking to the streets to support the accord signed last month with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and now hanging by a thread.
In Bogota, victims of the conflict carrying photos of dead loved ones were greeted by well-wishers handing out white flowers symbolizing peace.
“We victims are in a state of limbo, we need the accord now,” said Diana Gomez, 38, whose activist father was killed a decade ago.
She said her father’s murder remains unsolved — one of a flood of unsolved crimes committed during the bloody conflict that claimed the lives of 220,000 people and left about 8 million displaced.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, is in talks with the opposition and FARC to make adjustments to the accord after it was narrowly rejected in a referendum six days after it was signed in front of world leaders.
However, it is not clear he can save the deal as opponents push for stiffer penalties for rebel leaders widely loathed by Colombians.
Under the terms of the accord, signed on Sept. 26, guerrillas who confess their war crimes will be spared time in jail and instead ordered to carry out community development work in areas hard hit by the conflict.
FARC leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez on Wednesday tried to put on a brave face, saying that the guerrilla group is open to making adjustments, even if it is not willing to start negotiations again from scratch.
In a rare, hour-long interview with Caracol Radio, Timochenko said the referendum loss might have been a good thing.
“It allows us to clear up many doubts and especially commit the important segment of the Colombian society that did not vote, more than 63 percent, to take an interest in this history-making event,” he said.
Wednesday’s march on the Plaza Bolivar, adjacent to the Colombian Congress building and Casa de Narino, appeared to be larger than last week’s rally, a sign of how politically apathetic Colombians have been jolted into action by the fading prospects for peace.
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