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Colombian Congress unanimously approves FARC peace

By Andrew V. Pestano
Colombian Congress unanimously approves FARC peace
Sergio Jaramillo Caro, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' High Commissioner for Peace, on Wednesday during debate in the Chamber of Representatives said "democracy was the best instrument to resolve conflicts" before the lower house unanimously approved the most recent peace agreement between Santos' government and the FARC rebel group. Photo courtesy of Chamber of Representatives

BOGOTA, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The Colombian Congress formally endorsed the most recent peace agreement between the government and the FARC rebel group after a unanimous lower house vote.

"With 130 votes in favor and zero against, the new agreement is approved in the Chamber of Representatives," the lower house of the bicameral Congress said in a statement on Wednesday. "Thus it is enforced and ready for implementation."

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President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize in October for his efforts in ending the 52-year Colombian conflict with the FARC rebels, expressed his "gratitude to Congress for historical support to hope for peace of Colombians."

Congress' approval comes nearly two weeks after the hard-line opposition to a FARC peace deal -- known as the "No" campaign -- rejected the latest version of the agreement. Both chambers of Congress unanimously voted to endorse the agreement.

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The "No" camp, led by former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, said the new agreement, over which negotiations began after the initial peace deal was rejected in a 50.2 percent vote in early October, was "merely a retouch" of the rejected deal.

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"No spokesman for 'No' said they were against the peace process. That was the message from the plebiscite," Sergio Jaramillo Caro, Santos' High Commissioner for Peace, said during debate on Wednesday. "Democracy is the best instrument to resolve conflicts."

More than 220,000 people have died and 5 million have been internally displaced due to the Colombian conflict since FARC's founding in 1964 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group. FARC, known officially as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has been involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency.

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