Expectations ran high for a peace accord to be finalized in Colombia between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) early in 2016. After four years of negotiations the parties agreed to a bilateral ceasefire and a final agreement. Although it was not legally necessary, President Santos put the final peace accord to a referendum vote.
The unexpected outcome revealed a polarized and divided country—the accord was rejected by 50.2 percent of those who voted. Although most Colombians want to see an end to the armed conflict that has spanned more than five decades, many felt that too many concessions had been made to the FARC. Given the outcome of the referendum, the negotiating parties returned to the table to make adjustments and passed a revised accord through the Colombian National Congress in December 2016.
Support from the U.S. government was critical through the ups and downs of the negotiation process. The U.S. Congress has also encouraged the Colombian government to begin peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest remaining guerrilla group after the FARC demobilize. This is an important step to securing a complete peace across Colombia.
The next crucial step is how Colombia will implement the peace accords and reach parts of the country that have long been ignored by the centralized government. The aid package proposed by the Obama administration would shift from primarily military aid, which the U.S. gave during the conflict, towards assistance for Colombia’s efforts to roll out new development and economic programs.
With the U.S. Congress delaying budget decisions until 2017, this assistance for Colombia remains uncertain. It is also unclear how support for Colombia might change in the near future, as a new Administration that has been opaque on foreign policy takes office. –Charissa Zehr