Colombia, FARC put 'final touches' on peace deal, says president

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 2:30 PM

By Sarah Marsh and Helen Murphy

HAVANA/BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday he hoped to make a big announcement later in the day as negotiators for the government and FARC rebels in Havana put the "final touches" to a peace deal to end five decades of war.

"I hope to give you historic news, that is very, very important for this country," he said at the Bogota launch of a children's competition called "Depict a Colombia in Peace."

"May this country that you are imagining, that you are painting, become reality," he said. "A country where children can grow without fear and with hope for the future."

Cuban authorities called a news conference for 1900 EDT to mark the "closing of the negotiations with the final accord between FARC and the Colombian government."

An agreement would cap nearly four years of talks in Cuba that have at times almost derailed and would still need to be voted on in a referendum and signed.

FARC negotiator Pastor Alape tweeted overnight that "the days now are hours" until peace starts to take shape.

Most opinion polls suggest Colombians will back the deal although there is strong opposition from those who believe the only way to deal with FARC is to crush it militarily.

A deal with FARC does not guarantee an end to violence. Talks between the smaller, leftist National Liberation Army and the government recently stalled, while gangs born out of right-wing paramilitary groups are reported to have taken over some of their drug trafficking routes.

But an agreement is a prerequisite for peace. A ceasefire has already sent violence to its lowest level in decades.

The improved security should boost investment and tourism in the emerging markets darling, analysts say, estimating a 0.3 percent to 1 percent increase in economic growth.

"If you have an improvement in overall security, foreign and national investment increases," said Sabine Kurtenbach at the Hamburg-based GIGA research institute.

"Some regulations in the peace treaties like the promotion of rural areas could also really boost the Colombian economy."

Halfway through his second term, Santos has staked his legacy on peace.

"Colombia without war has everything ahead of it," he said.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Julia Symmes-Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jeffrey Benkoe)