Colombia, FARC sign historic end to conflict

Santos and Timochenko celebrate the signing of a final peace accord in Bogotá.
Santos and Timochenko celebrate the signing of a final peace accord in Bogotá.

On Thursday, hundreds of journalists descended on the Plaza de Bolívar, the main square of the Colombian capital to cover the historic signing of the revised Final Accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Teatro Colón, a Republican-style theatre in Bogotá’s colonial La Candelaria neighbourhood.

Giant flatscreen monitors lined the steps of the national Congress building, where the revised Final Accord ceremony was beamed outdoors to spectators who had gathered early to watch the event live on state television. The accord was handed to legislators after the offical ceremony.

Juan Manuel Santos and alias "Timochenko" shake hands after signing a new peace accord in Bogotá's Teatro Colón. (Photo by Presidencia de la República)
Juan Manuel Santos and alias “Timochenko” shake hands after signing a new peace accord in Bogotá’s Teatro Colón. (Photo by Presidencia de la República)

The signing of the accord between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC’s maximum commander Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez officially ends 52-years of conflict with the oldest guerrilla group in the world, and an internal conflict that claimed the lives of 260,000 Colombians and forcibly displaced some 7 million.

After a week of intense rains, Bogotá was bathed in sunlight for a ceremony that lasted just over an hour and presided by Santos and “Timochenko” — the first time they have met face-to-face in the Colombian capital.

Built between 1885 and 1895 by the Florentine architect Pietro Cantini, the Colón Theatre is known for its exceptional acoustics and a gilded baroque interior. Singer Cecilia Silva Caraballo performed the national anthem for the second peace signing ceremony in two months.

The first peace signing ceremony took place on Sept. 26 in the port city of Cartagena and was attended by world dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Cuban President Raul Castro, and U.N. Secretary General Ban-ki Moon.

The original accord was then struck down in an Oct. 2 plebiscite by a margin of just 55,000 votes.

Fifty-three days after the plebiscite to ratify the Final Accord was defeated by the opponents to the FARC peace negotiations, Santos took the decision to present the accord directly to Congress in order to have it approved by the end of this year.

Amendments were made to 56 of 57 of the most controversial issues in the original six-point agenda developed by the Colombian government and FARC since starting peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba, back in 2012.

On Thursday, minutes before the start of ceremony President Santos remained in the presidential palace, Casa de Nariño, before crossing the Plaza de Bolívar square in his motorcade, and to a theatre located two streets blocks from the square named after the Liberator of the Andes, Simón Bolívar.

A small crowd waving tri-color Colombian flags gathered in the main Bolívar square to celebrate the signing of the accord and to usher in a new era of peace for Colombia.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just five days after the plebiscite, was greeted with a standing ovation in the historic Colón Theatre and accompanied by Colombia’s High Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo and Chief Negotiator Humberto de la Calle.

“We Colombians have lived more than seven decades of war,” remarked “Timochenko” as he addressed the audience and was greeted with applause.

“We modified the accord taking into consideration the public opinion sectors, political movements, groups. Colombians are tired of conflict and want an end to the lies, corruption, the abuse of power,” he said.

Minutes after the singing of the national anthem, “Timochenko” walked up to a small wooden desk and signed the accord with a bullet-casing pen “Baligrafo”, the same used during the original signing in Cartagena.

“Our eternal recognition to the victims of the conflict,” said “Timochenko”

At the moment of the signing, the bells of Bogotá’s main Cathedral, La Primada, rang out.

The FARC’s maximum commander also congratulated Donald Trump on his presidential victory and extended an invitation to the future administration in Washington to consolidate peace in Colombia.

“We extend an olive branch to Colombians and reiterate our forgiveness for the harm we caused.”

“We Colombians share a profound love of country that has allowed us to recognize ourselves as a nation,” said Santos as he took to the podium in the Colón Theatre. “After 200 years of independence, we have always faced our obstacles with courage.”

“Peace is a shared value, that we have searched for over year, decades, centuries,” remarked the Nobel laureate.

During his 25-minute speech Santos touched on the main issues of the Final Accord from agrarian reform, to victims’ rights, and combating illicit drugs.

“We must be able to deal with our differences peacefully,” said Santos. “This accord strengthens our democracy. This is a better accord than the one we reached in Cartagena.”

“Peace is the most pressing and important of all issues regarding our nation.”

Santos affirmed that within the next 150 days, all FARC weapons will be in the hands of the United Nations.

“We have to believe in a better tomorrow. We must be able to overcome our differences. Let’s make this dream a reality,” said Santos in closing.


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