In Montreal, mourning the peace deal that wasn’t


I woke up on Sunday filled with nerves and hope. I was also ready to write about my day. In the morning I took note of the cool, cloudy weather here in Montreal and how it reminded me of Sundays back home in Bogota, there’s a reason why we call it la nevera! I walked to the consulate and I saw the office building packed beyond what I had ever seen, officials inside saith they had never seen such a large turnout for any election.

I voted and I got emotional, I didn’t know how if I would keep it together. But once I got outside the consulate there was a group playing live music; the Colombian classics:

People listened and danced and dreamed, I guess, of going home to a country at peace. I stayed there for a while, taking it in. It was weird but it was comforting to hear others play live music and dance in the middle of an empty downtown.

Suddenly, we heard a booming noise in the sky. It was a fighter jet coming for the aerial show of a football game in the city and we were all absolutely paralyzed, much like Timochenko live on camera in Cartagena when an air force plane flew over the crowd. A few minutes later another fighter plane flew by and we all enjoyed the show and the music kept on playing.

I talked to others who had just voted: Adriana Barrera is young woman and works as an accountant. She said that her reason to vote YES were her nieces and nephews, she wanted a better country for them. She also mentioned that coming to vote felt like the granito de arena she could give to make that happen.  Julián, who is a logistics manager says that his vote is to disarm the Farc and that they have been “an excuse for everything.” They emigrated for Colombia for better job opportunities.I tried to talk to others who were less enthusiastic but they declined to be interviewed.

It started to rain so I went home to have lunch and wait for the results. Once it was 4 p.m. Colombian time it was just a whirlwind;  early results coming in quickly showed it was tight; later results gave the NO option a small lead which they kept. This, I wasn’t prepared for. I hoped for a yes victory and I was prepared for a decisive NO vote, but not for such uncertainty.

I felt shattered that my side lost, that my vote for less violence and an agreement a thought acceptable was defeated. But mainly I felt worried and scared about the limbo we were thrust into. The results are officially a rejection of the question but politically it’s much, much messier.

I’m sad, but more than that I’m tired. I was tired of living in a country amid an armed conflict, even if it was something that happened mostly in the background for me. The conflict has never touched me directly, fortunately, but I remember how it was just part of life growing up. I remember being scared of going to visit my grandmother’s house just outside Bogota because I heard the rumour that guerrillas were in a nearby town.

I remember that once an English teacher asked for things we thought were scary and my friend answered “guerrillas” and the teacher thought my friend said “gorillas”; of course it makes no sense for a small kid to be afraid of groups of real armed guys who really are nearby in their country instead of a big scary animal in a movie or book!

Yes I’m sad. And disappointed in many ways seeing how close the vote was. But most of all I’m tired. I wanted today to be the day when I could rest that bit of my body and that bit of my mind, but no luck. We’ll have to go on another day and see what happens and how this story will come to some sort of resolution. Right now it just seems too much to process and it’s too much to live with condensed in just one day.

As the traditional vallenato goes, my hope was “que se acabe la vaina”. If there’s anyone who gets me I guess it’s you guys.

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  1. Since I’m not Colombian, whatever I opine about yesterday should be construed that way.

    In a way, I am glad the NO won. Not that I oppose peace, but imagine not only giving most of the FARC a pass on prison time, but they get paid too! Really?

    There are like ZERO consequences for them.

    Just switch in Santos for Netanyahu and the FARC for Hamas and see how far that deal flies!

    I hope that the FARC get the message, that the Colombians are in favor of peace, but there need to be more consequences, real ones, for those who committed serious crimes.

    Forgiveness is a necessary part of these things, but I thought the deal was way too sweet for the FARC.

    Apparently more than half of Colombia felt the same……..

  2. Everyone wants peace. A “No” vote does not mean that you’re against peace. Rather, it means that you oppose a sweet deal for terrorists that rewards drug trafficking, kidnapping and crimes against humanity with 10 spots in congress and other goodies. They need to go back to the drawing board without interference from Venezuelan officials that funded the FARC and at a neutral place (not Cuba where these violent movements began).

  3. Every one wants peace , even those voting NO wanted peace, what they didnt like were the terms of the proposed deal for formalizing that peace DECISION every one (even the guerrillas) has ALREADY MADE. .

    The size of the No vote was surprising given that people supporting it were subjected to an aggresive kind of Moral extortion that tried to force them to accept a Peace deal on terms that they could not stomach, Am told that people who as a matter of conscience opposed the proposed peace deal were intimidated into hiding their position because the media handling of the matter made any opposition to the deal a moral sin.

    I mean who could be so wicked as to oppose PEACE……!! The terms of the peace deal were incidental , irrelevant and that was what those supporting the No vote did not accept .

    What the Santos govt understimated is the level of hatred and rejection the guerrillas monstrous crimes hace earned them among so many colombians. NO one was rejecting peace , no one was angry that the deal was too harsh on the FARC rather they were angry at the deal being so lenient and accomodating on the FARC leaders..!!

    There were authorized voices from people like President Pastrana who supported the No basically because if you read the part of the deal which deals with the erradication of cocaine crops you can see that in practice the govt has agreed not to mess with them until a convoluted process (capable of being manipulated) is accomplished which in practice means that FARC operatives can retain control of those crops and the drugtrafficking that goes with such control for much time to come …giving them access to inmmense resources they can use to bribe and buy their way into the weakest institutional shinks of colombian democracy in more covert attempt at destroying it ….!!

    As a result of the govt staying its hand at erradicating the crops the size of the area dedicated to growing them has cuadrupled in the last year or so , we can guess what FARC operative will do with the money which drug trafficking business still in their hands will generate…..of course this also helps the corrupt Venezuelan military involved in the Colombian drugtrafficling business to continue supporting the Venezuelan regime , to defend the business that makes them so much money!!

    The peace process will continue , some parts of the deal will have to be revisited , but the already made decision of Colombians to forego the methods of war is irreversible ……..and will result in a formalized deal that allow such peace decision to become institutionally rooted and universally accepted..

    • Bill, I am reluctant to get into a debate about which side committed more or worse atrocities. We can hopefully agree that both sides committed vast numbers of atrocities. However, when it comes to arguments about impunity and the risks of normalizing criminals and letting them into the political process, the arguments tend to be one-sided and do not do justice to the two sided nature of this irregular conflict. Thus far, impunity and entrance into the political and other institutions for criminals and their sympathizers has been one-sided.

      I sympathize with the Venezuelan point of view, understanding the impact that the FARC has had on Venezuelans, particularly those living in parts of the country close to my heart. But I have to remind myself that this is not the whole picture.

      Having said that, I share the sentiments you have, that hopefully notwithstanding the outcome of this vote, Colombians have irreversibly decided to end this war. What concerns me, is that in an informal or de facto demilitarization process, a well established system of arbitrary justice through extra judicial killing regains a certain level of respectability within the political class.

  4. Voting YES believing that this meant peace it was probably short sighted. Peace at any price is almost never an enduring peace. This NO has a good chance of being more favorable for real, lasting peace than the YES that was being pushed down the throats of Colombians like if they were geese. The fact is that FARC was going to receive benefits and privileges that decent Colombians have never received and which had to be paid by them.
    Injustice was written all over YES.

  5. When I heard of a peace accord of more than 290 pages send to a referendum, it did not smell right “aqui hay gato encerrado”… but then I also thought: If you want to be sure to vote YES you have to read it all, but if you just find one page with something to dislike you can vote NO, and so I concluded in that perhaps “se pisaron ellos mismos los callos”.

    That said, though I am not a Colombian, I am certain only this NO has a chance to lead to something more of a sustainable peace. And besides… just the idea of peace-talks on such a non-neutral place as Havana, is an insult to too many.

  6. Colombians seeking sympathy will find little of it here, unfortunately. Alvaro Uribe is a hero to the Venezuelan right, and Santos not, because of his willingness to shake hands with Nicolas Maduro, in the name of pragmatism. Moreover, this deal runs against a region wide sectarianism that Hugo Chavez promoted, but many people on both sides embrace.

    Colombia has made great progress in recent years, and I hope this event does not represent a significant setback.

  7. Everyone won yesterday: The FARC knows they have a real path to become a legal party and they’re going to keep softening the deal until they can run for actual positions in the government, the Santos government proved that they could achieve peace with the peace talks, and the victims can still hope for some justice.

    The only people mad for yesterday’s results are those who wanted the YES to win no matter what, ignoring the importance and danger of giving such a sweet deal for these guerrilleros in the long term.

  8. Giving the chance to a drug cartel to become government to enact bloody revenge on everybody they hate in the country.

    Heheh, damn, I’m so glad that blackmail was kicked in the face.

  9. By all means let the murdering, drug-dealing communist idiots into your country and give them seats in the government. Then they can start working to make Colombia like Venezuela, destroy your economy and impose a Castro style dictatorship while you starve. And they called this a “peace deal.” More like a “piece deal.”

  10. I don´t get it. What about Uribe being president, who was a collaborator of Pablo Escobar? What about the Paraco Bosses quickly flewn to the USA so they might not testify against Uribe? What about uribes familiy which is in parapolítica up to their noses?


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