Colombians’ suspicions to linger long after FARC peace deal

The ink on the landmark peace deal, signed this week amid much pomp and circumstance, will have barely dried when Colombian voters decide whether to sign off on it in Sunday’s national referendum. But little else seems certain about the deal, which supporters say will end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running and bloodiest conflict and detractors counter will vindicate terrorists by excusing their atrocities and giving them a seat at the table.

The 297-page “final agreement,” hammered out in four years of negotiations between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC, has won effusive praise from world leaders including President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Pope Francis said Thursday that he will reward the effort with a visit to Colombia early next year.

Inside Colombia, though, the reaction has been mixed, and a sizable and vociferous campaign is urging voters to reject the agreement.

The debate has pitted urban against rural populations, idealists against pragmatists and military hawks against political doves.

To former President Alvaro Uribe, whose father was killed by the guerrilla organization, the deal “turns the country over to the FARC.” To former Sen. Ingrid Betancourt, whom the rebels held hostage from 2002 to 2008, it will become a model for ending similar conflicts around the world.

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