The Latest: Colombia accord signing ends with 'Ode to Peace'

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 26, 2016 7:50 PM
The Latest: Colombia accord signing ends with 'Ode to Peace'

CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — The latest on the signing of a historic peace deal in Colombia (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

The signatures done and the speeches given, Colombia's ceremony for the formal signing of a historic peace accord to end a half-century of conflict is over.

Colombia's president, the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, regional presidents, the U.N. secretary-general and U.S. secretary of state filed out as a choir sang a stirring version of "Ode to Peace."

An audience of 2,500 dressed all in white as a symbol of peace shared tears and cheers during the formal signing of the pact and the speeches that followed.

The accord was signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo London, the top commander of the FARC guerrillas, which is the country's biggest rebel group. It was reached during four years of negotiations and still must be approved by Colombian voters in an Oct. 2 national referendum.

___

5:30 p.m.

Colombia's government and the country's largest rebel movement have signed a historic peace accord ending a half-century of bloody combat.

President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed the 297-page agreement before a crowd of 2,500 foreign dignitaries and special guests in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.

Monday's deal must still be ratified in an Oct. 2 referendum. If it passes, as is widely expected, the rebels will turn over their weapons to United Nations-sponsored observers in the next six months while forming a political party. The FARC will be guaranteed a minimum 10 seats in congress over the next two legislative periods.

Opponents have criticized the deal for sparing guerrilla leaders jail time if they confess to war crimes.

___

5:15 p.m.

The ceremony for the formal signing of Colombia's peace accord has begun in the coastal city of Cartagena.

The event was running behind schedule, starting 15 minutes later than planned.

The accord is to be signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel known by the alias Timochenko.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Latin American leaders attending to witness the signing.

The peace accord is the product of four years of tough negotiations that aim to end the South American nation's five-decade conflict. The fighting killed more than 220,000 people and drove 8 million from their homes.

___

4:50 p.m.

Guests have begun arriving at the convention center in Cartagena, Colombia, where the Colombian president and the top commander of the country's biggest rebel movement will formally sign their peace accord on ending a half-century of conflict.

White flags are flapping in the central courtyard and most attendees are dressed in white. Colombian officials had urged people invited to the ceremony to wear white as a symbol of peace.

Former guerrilla Leon Valencia says he's excited about the impending signing. In his words, "It's like when you're waiting for a child that is finally born, or seeing an old love or when your favorite team scores a goal."

___

4:20 p.m.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is praising the United States for playing a "bipartisan" role in backing Colombia's hard-fought peace process.

Santos met with Secretary of State John Kerry and a group of American delegates in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of Monday's formal signing of the historic peace agreement between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Santos said that "Plan Colombia became Paz Colombia," using the Spanish word for peace, "and that was the cherry on the cake."

Kerry congratulated Santos for his efforts to achieve peace, saying, "You've extended your political capital."

Kerry cautioned that while the agreement is reason for celebration, "people will look to see the results."

___

3:20 p.m.

The Vatican's secretary of state celebrated Colombians' adherence to the Christian values of dialogue and forgiveness for reaching a deal to end decades of bloody combat.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered the remarks at a midday Mass before President Juan Manuel Santos and dozens of foreign dignitaries in the colonial St. Peter Claver church in the coastal city of Cartagena, where the peace accord is being signed later Monday.

The church is named for a 17th century Jesuit priest that provided relief and blessings to the tens of thousands of African slaves that arrived to the New World in Cartagena. Like the Catholic saint, whose remains are buried in the baroque church, Parolin said Colombians are an example to the world of what can be achieved when one overcomes their pain to demonstrate mercy.

In Parolin's words, "All of us here today are conscious of the fact we're at the final of a negotiation but also the beginning of a still open process of change that requires the contribution and respect of all Colombians."

___

2:55 p.m.

The European Union is set to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, from its terror blacklist as the rebels sign a peace treaty with the government.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc will remove the guerrilla group from its list of terror groups in a gesture of support for the peace process.

That will open the door for Colombia to receive $600 million in EU aid for post-conflict refunding.

Mogherini said Monday that Brussels has accompanied Colombians through the four years of talks in Havana that led to the peace deal being signed Monday. The FARC has been on the EU terror list since 2002.

___

1:40 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is prepared to review whether the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, should remain on its designated terrorist organization list after a peace accord with the Colombian government is implemented.

Kerry says "we clearly are ready to review and make judgments as the facts come in."

He says in Cartagena, Colombia, that the U.S. will be watching whether FARC rebels reintegrate into society, disarm and embrace the terms of reconciliation before making a decision.

Kerry adds that "we don't want to leave people on the list if they don't belong."

The U.S. put the FARC on its terror list in 1997. The peace accord was to be signed later Monday.

___

1:10 p.m.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is crediting his time as a naval cadet for steeling him to endure four years of tense negotiations and strike a historic peace deal with the country's main guerrilla group.

Santos says it was that military training that taught him the most important things in life: "Strength, perseverance — things that were useful, very useful, on the path to peace."

He called the accord a tribute to Colombia's U.S.-backed armed forces and their pursuit of the rebels over the past decade, when several top rebel leaders were killed.

"What we are signing today is your victory," he said.

Santos spoke Monday to military officers in Cartagena, where he was a cadet many years ago, ahead of the signing of the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

He also presided over a minute of silence to honor the thousands of soldiers killed in combat with the rebels.

___

11:50 a.m.

The head of the International Monetary Fund is predicting that Colombia's peace accord will be "extremely positive" for the country's economy.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says concerns over a possible tax hike to pay for commitments laid out in the 297-page accord may be overblown.

She told reporters in the Caribbean city of Cartagena that "peace is affordable," after meeting with Colombia's finance minister on Monday.

Lagarde underscored that reforms to allow Colombia to maintain financial stability would have been needed regardless of the peace deal because of the impact of low oil prices on government revenues.

The Washington-based IMF has provided Colombia with a so-called flexible credit line of about $11 million, reserved for countries with a strong track record of policy making and economic stability.

___

11:20 a.m.

A few hundred supporters of conservative former President Alvaro Uribe are protesting Colombia's peace accord. They believe it's too lenient on guerrilla leaders accused of war crimes.

Uribe addressed the crowd dressed in the yellow, blue and red of Colombia's flag on the outskirts of Cartagena, far from where Monday's signing ceremony will take place.

Amid shouts of "No to the referendum," Uribe argued that the accord puts Colombia on the path to becoming a leftist dictatorship.

He said Mexico would never give impunity to that country's drug gangs, "so why does Colombia have to give impunity to the world's biggest cocaine cartel?" It's a reference to involvement in the drug trade by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Under the peace accord, the guerrillas will disarm and form a political organization. Uribe added: "Why does Colombia have to allow the election of those who have kidnapped 11,700 children or raped 6,800 women?"

Protesters also yelled that current President Juan Manuel Santos, who is a former ally of Uribe and whose government struck the deal with the FARC, "is a coward."

___

10:40 a.m.

Guerrillas in the southern plains of Colombia are eagerly anticipating the signing of a historic peace accord.

"Paula" is the nom de guerre of a 32-year-old rebel who has spent the last 18 years of her life with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

She says the peace deal means she no longer has to worry about being killed by a bomb or while facing the enemy on the battlefield.

"It is my rebirth," she says. "It's like a dream."

A 26-year-old guerrilla who goes by "Franklin" says he hopes to make a future as a doctor after 12 years at war with the FARC.

He says "I pinch myself and still don't believe it."

The peace accord after decades of bloody conflict is set to be signed later Monday.

___

10:20 a.m

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging young Colombians to embrace the country's peace process for the sake of future generations.

At a round table in Cartagena, Colombia, Kerry spoke with former combatants who voluntarily left the guerrillas, land-mine victims and members of anti-rebel recruitment group.

Kerry told attendees that "anybody can pick up a gun, blow up things, hurt people," but it will not be about positive change. He said the United States is "very invested in your struggle for change."

The secretary of state is among a number of foreign dignitaries in Colombia to attend Monday's signing of a peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Kerry said that the U.S., Norway and partner countries raised $105 million last week for de-mining the country over the next five years.

___

9:15 a.m.

There's tight security and a festive mood in the air in the Colombian city of Cartagena as leftist guerrillas and the government are set to sign a historic peace deal.

More than 2,700 troops have been deployed to guarantee the security of 15 Latin American heads of state at Monday's ceremony.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are also scheduled to witness the signing in the Caribbean city.

The peace accord is the product of four years of tough negotiations in Havana between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The South American nation's five-decade conflict, partly fueled by the cocaine trade, has killed more than 220,000 people and driven 8 million from their homes.