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Colombia to sign revised peace deal

The accord aims to end Latin America’s last major armed conflict. 

AFP | Bogota |

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels will sign a
controversial revised peace accord on Thursday to end their half-century conflict,
set to be ratified despite bitter complaints from opponents.

Under pressure for fear that a fragile ceasefire could break
down, the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said
they will sign the new deal at 04.30 PM and immediately take it to Congress.

The plan bypasses a vote by the Colombian people after they
unexpectedly rejected the first version of the deal in a referendum last month.

The accord aims to end Latin America’s last major armed
conflict. But opponents say it is too soft on the leftist FARC force, blamed
for many thousands of killings and kidnappings.

The document is expected to pass after being debated next
week. President Juan Manuel Santos and his allies hold a majority in the
legislature.

Santos, who has staked his presidency on ending the conflict,
won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts – giving him a boost just
five days after the shock referendum defeat.

A recent wave of alleged assassinations in conflict areas
has raised pressure to seal a deal fast.

“There is no time to waste,” Santos said.

“Lives have been lost and many more are in
danger.”

But an aftermath of discord and uncertainty appears likely
as opponents promised to keep resisting.

“We invite citizens to persist in the struggle for the
future of democracy,” said the Democratic Center Party led by conservative
ex-president Alvaro Uribe.

“In the coming days, we will examine various actions to
call the people into the streets and democratic spaces,” it added in a
statement.

Thursday’s signing will be low-key compared to that of the
original deal in September. Then, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo
“Timochenko” Londono held a triumphant ceremony with 2,500 guests
including 15 heads of state.

The new ceremony will be held in the Colon Theater in Bogota
– relatively small, with a capacity of just 800.

“With today’s signing, the hope of peace is coming
alive,” tweeted the FARC’s chief peace negotiator, Ivan Marquez.

“It will be a project of self-construction in which all
of us must work.”

Government and FARC negotiators presented a redrafted
version of the deal earlier this month.

But Uribe complained it still did not satisfy his key
demands, notably on punishing FARC leaders for their crimes.

Under the deal, the FARC would disarm and become a political
party.

Uribe and his allies say rebel leaders guilty of war crimes
should not be allowed to run for office.

They also want guarantees for state police and soldiers who
may face trial over their actions in the conflict.