BOGOTA – President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday delivered to Colombia’s Congress the text of the peace deal that government negotiators finalized this week with FARC rebels and which will be put to a vote in a popular referendum on Oct. 2.
Accompanied by a crowd of children, politicians and government officials who carried Colombian flags and drawings of a peace dove and cheered his name, Santos left the Casa de Nariño presidential palace in Bogota and crossed the Plaza de Armas to the Colombian Congress building.
Before delivering the peace deal to the leader of the national legislature, Mauricio Lizcano, Santos described the agreement as “a historic reality that will change the face of Colombia for the better.”
In his remarks on the steps of the National Capitol building, Santos recalled that negotiators for the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, announced Wednesday that they had finalized a peace deal after five and a half years of negotiations, including 45 months of public talks in Havana.
“Just yesterday I signed and promulgated the plebiscite law that Congress approved and that went to the Constitutional Court. They examined, analyzed it there and ruled it to be constitutional,” he said.
That law clearly states that Congress must be notified of the date of the peace referendum, according to Santos, who said he therefore also presented Lizcano with a letter authorizing the plebiscite to be held on Oct. 2.
“I’m aware I didn’t have a legal authorization (to hold a plebiscite), but I did have a moral obligation because I’m a democrat and I believe the people should have the last word,” he said.
In his speech, Santos said the peace deal would bring humanitarian benefits to those internally displaced by the decades-old armed conflict, allowing nearly 7 million people to return to their home regions and have a dignified life.