For the second time in just six weeks, it appears that Latin America's longest-running war may finally end in peace. The Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, announced an agreement Saturday night that would end their 52-year guerrilla war — another attempt at peace after Colombian voters narrowly rejecteda previous deal in an October referendum.
"We have reached a new final accord to end the armed conflict that integrates changes, precisions and proposals suggested by the most diverse sectors of society," both groups announced in a statement.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the country and its leaders on the new deal.
"After 52 years of war, no peace agreement can satisfy everyone in every detail," Kerry said in the statement. "But this agreement constitutes an important step forward on Colombia's path to a just and durable peace. The United States, in coordination with the Government of Colombia, will continue to support full implementation of the final peace agreement."
The war between the FARC and the Colombian government began in the 1960s; since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people and the displacement of millions more.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has made peace with the rebel group a centerpiece of his time in office. He began talks with the FARC in 2012, and his government has pursued intense peace negotiations in Havana in the years that followed, reaching a tentative outline for a deal last year and final terms for it in August. Though voters rejected the first attempt in a nationwide referendum — by a margin of less than 1 percent — Santos was rewarded for his efforts with a Nobel Peace Prize last month.
"I won't give up," Santos declared shortly after the rejection he was dealt in the referendum. "I'll continue search for peace until the last moment of my mandate."
Many Colombians objected to the first peace agreement for its perceived leniency toward FARC fighters. That deal, which would have allowed rebels to avoid being prosecuted for war crimes, placed an emphasis on reconciliation that drew criticism from many voters. As John Otis reported at the time: "People want to see these FARC guerrillas in prison stripes behind bars."
Among the changes in the new deal, FARC rebels who confess to war crimes will serve up to eight years of confinement in rural areas and will have to perform community service, John tells our newscast.
President Santos declared in a speech Sunday night: "Let's unite around this peace accord even if not everyone is happy with it," John adds.
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