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  • People form the word

    People form the word "Peace" in Bolivar square outside the cathedral in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 26, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 October 2016

Diverse sectors of Colombian society have urged the government to act swiftly to follow up on the "No" vote and ensure the opportunity for peace is not lost.

In a pair of open letters published Sunday by very different constituencies, Colombia's business community and the victims of Colombia’s long-running civil war urged the newly-named Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Juan Manuel Santos, to work quickly to resolve the political crisis triggered a week ago when voters rejected a plea deal between the government and the main rebel faction.

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“We hope that this recognition contributes to unity among Colombians, facilitating the collective construction of peace, coexistence, reconciliation, and social justice in our country,” wrote the delegation of 45 victims that participated in the peace process between the government and the FARC in Havana, Cuba, in their open letter Sunday.

The victims proposed a “social and political pact” to respond to Colombia’s violence, ensure the country doesn’t fall back into armed conflict and build an enduring peace.

“We request that those at the negotiating table redouble efforts to expedite a consensus that advances a definitive agreement that brings together the voices of all sectors of the country,” they wrote. “At the same time, we request that they quickly find a mechanism that guarantees the continuity of the bilateral cease-fire, safeguarding and protecting rural people and communities that directly suffer the cruelty of war.”

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The victims’ delegation celebrated the nearly 300-page peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, as a historic achievement for the country rocked by civil war for more than five decades. They urged both sides of the conflict to work toward locking in a final agreement after voters narrowly rejected the deal in a plebiscite on Oct. 2 that sought to ratify the accords with the population and called for continuing efforts to implement key humanitarian cornerstones of the deal, such as clearing landmines.

The Nobel Prize awards committee Friday announced that Santos had won the award. He vowed to donate the award money to victims of the conflict. He is the second Colombian to win a Nobel Prize, after famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

Also Sunday, nearly 400 Colombian business owners also voiced their opinions on the peace deal and proposed next steps in their open letter calling for a swift resolution, though they made it clear that they are as interested in profits as they are peace.

The letter, which local media heralded as the first of its kind from Colombian industry, calls on both sides of the conflict and supporters of both the “Yes” and “No” camps to put differences aside in the name of the national interest and “unity of the nation.”

“We understand that after a painful and prolonged armed conflict, the country has reached a unique moment in its history which should be capitalized by society, materializing a peace agreement expeditiously,” reads the letter, signed by nearly 400 individuals. “It is the responsibility of this generation to make every effort in this regard.”

In the wake of the shocking 50.2 percent vote rejecting the peace deal on Oct. 2, both government and FARC negotiators have resumed talks in Havana, the site of nearly four years of dialogue to produce the final agreement signed Sept. 26. Both Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko, have reiterated their commitment to the deal and building peace in Colombia, including the bilateral cease-fire that has halted military hostilities between the two sides.

Colombia’s landmark peace deal — the future of which remains uncertain after the upset “No” vote — brings an end to the longest running internal conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The civil war claimed some 220,000 lives and displaced more than six million Colombians.

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