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Colombia’s congress approves revised deal with FARC

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Colombia’s Congress has approved a revised peace deal with the FARC rebel group, paving the way to end a conflict that has lasted more than 50 years.

The lower house voted 130-0 on Wednesday to approve the text adopted a day earlier by the Senate.

President Juan Manuel Santos said the vote provided “landmark backing” for a deal he personally pushed for. Santos, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, shepherded the revised deal through Congress after voters shocked the world by rejecting an earlier version in a referendum last month.

The government’s chief peace negotiator with the FARC, Humberto de la Calle, had urged lawmakers to ratify this deal, warning the army’s ceasefire with the leftist guerrillas was “fragile”.

The first agreement was rejected in a referendum in October, with majority of voters saying they felt it was too lenient toward the rebels, who have battled the government for 52 years.

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Medellin, said the approval was a significant step towards peace in the country, but added that the deal still faced hurdles.

“A few more obstacles remain,” he said, adding the constitutional court still needed to rule on a mechanism allowing Congress to pass implementing regulations, including an amnesty law.
Resistance remains

The new agreement introduces some 50 changes intended to assuage critics led by still-powerful former president Alvaro Uribe.

They range from a prohibition on foreign magistrates judging crimes by the FARC or government, to a commitment from the rebels to forfeit assets, some of them amassed through drug trafficking, to help compensating their victims.

But the FARC would not go along with the opposition’s strongest demands: jail sentences for rebel leaders who committed atrocities and stricter limits on their future participation in politics.
Colombians hope for peace under new FARC deal

Public opinion has been divided on the signing of the deal, as some overwhelmingly loathe the FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, for crimes such as kidnappings and drug-trafficking, while others want peace to prevail.

However, a recent wave of alleged assassinations in conflict areas has raised pressure on the government to seal a peace deal fast.

The revised deal aims to end 52 years of conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people, left 60,000 missing and displaced millions.

However, a period of discord and uncertainty looks certain, as opponents threatened to resist the revised deal.

Uribe, the former president, had complained that it still did not satisfy his key demands, notably punishing FARC leaders for their crimes.

The peace deal follows three failed efforts to end the conflict, under presidents Belisario Betancur (1982-1986), Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994) and Andres Pastrana (1998-2002).

[Source: Al Jazeera News and Agencies]
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