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Colombians Reject Peace Deal. Now Back to War?

Colombians have just rejected a historic peace agreement with the FARC. 65.000 votes out of 13 million ballots made the difference. A geographic breakdown of the results will show that acceptance was highest in those areas that have suffered the most from the war, while refusal was mostly an urban middle class phenomenon.

This shows how disconnected the realities between the urban centers and the peripheries have become. This result is disastrous because at bottom it shows a lack of solidarity with the most vulnerable in Colombian society: the villagers and peasants most in need of help, development and peace.

The cities have been largely pacified, an undisputed success of the democratic security policy. Yet, it looks like this relative security has made the peace accord amenable to politization and the well-off complacent. The basic understanding that the civil war is not simply "out there", but has profound implications for the safety of the cities as well, seems to have been lost.

Of course, the peace agreement was not perfect. Even if it had been accepted by the voters it would not have covered other insurgents and paramilitary groups. But it would have started a political process and demilitarized important issues such as land reform and rural development. It would have brought hope to a country brutalized by half a century of armed conflict and irregular warfare. Going back to the negotiating table and starting from scratch, will not be as easy as the "no"-campaign made Colombians believe - if it happens at all.

I hope I am wrong, but it looks like Colombia is going back to war. This is a sad day.

ENDNOTE: Surprisingly, the Colombian guerrilla war has not produced iconic images. Even half a century after breaking out, it remains woefully under-reported around the world. Jesus Abad Colorado Lopez is one of the few photographers who covered this conflict for long periods of time. He was always one of the last to leave the places that had been touched by the war, and this gave Lopez a distinct perspective: not that of a war photographer per se, but that of a chronicler of human grief. Why would a country want to go back to this devastation?

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