BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to authorize a referendum he is proposing on an eventual peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group.
Santos addressed the court at a hearing on the law governing the proposed plebiscite.
“For peace, for our social rule of law, for the victims, for the future of Colombia, for the potential hope of finally living in a normal country, without war, I respectfully ask” that the Statutory Peace Referendum Law be declared constitutional, the head of state said.
Santos added that the agreement to be signed with the FARC will signify recognition by an illegal actor that had taken up arms against our institutions, our constitution and our laws, of the “legitimacy of those same institutions, that constitution and those laws.”
Putting the peace deal to a popular referendum is not a constitutional or legal obligation of his administration because the nation’s charter gives him the power to negotiate and sign the agreement without that step, Santos said, though adding that he wants the Colombian people to have the final say.
In March, Colombian Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre asked the Constitutional Court to declare the referendum law unconstitutional, arguing that the end of the conflict with the FARC “cannot be subjected to an electoral result.”
Negotiators from the government and the FARC said Wednesday that due to the “positive course” of the talks they had decided to declare themselves in permanent session with a view to finalizing a peace deal as soon as possible.
The government and the FARC have held more than three years of peace talks in the Cuban capital aimed at bringing an end to a more than 50-year-old armed conflict.
The two sides have already concluded agreements on most of the points on their agenda, including political participation for ex-guerrillas.