Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia vote: Farc peace deal vote 'tighter than expected'

Farc rebels in Colombia (22 September 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Under the deal, the Farc will be relaunched as a political party

Early results from Colombia's vote on whether to accept a peace deal agreed by the government and Farc rebels suggest a far tighter than expected contest.

The historic agreement - if backed - would see the group handing over weapons, ending its involvement in the drugs trade and changing into a political movement.

With over 90% of votes counted, the contest was too close to call.

The 52-year conflict killed 260,000.

It also left more than six million people internally displaced.

There has been criticism that the concessions to the rebels go too far.

The plebiscite asked for a simple "Yes" or "No" to the question: "Do you support the final accord to end the conflict and to build a stable and lasting peace?"

The accord, reached after four years of formal negotiations, was signed on Monday by President Juan Manuel Santos and the rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, who apologised to "all the victims of the conflict".

Under the deal, the rebels would take part in legislative elections in 2018 and will be guaranteed a minimum of 10 seats in Congress for their first two legislative periods.

The agreement also says that perpetrators of atrocities on both sides will be brought to justice.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People opposed to the agreement with Farc have held several demonstrations

Shortly after voting, Mr Santos said: "We in Colombia have to adopt this culture of non-violence.

"All of us can be protagonists in this historic change taking place in our nation."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Santos has said there is no Plan "B" if Colombians do not approve peace accord

On Saturday, the rebels announced they would pay reparations to victims of the conflict out of the group's assets.

They said they were declaring their "monetary and non-monetary resources", which are thought to include land, mining and transport investments.

Colombian authorities say the rebels possess huge tracts of valuable land, including cattle ranches, shops and construction companies, which helped the group launder money from drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

Historic vote: By Wyre Davies, BBC South America correspondent

Image copyright Getty Images

This is arguably the most important vote in Colombia's history. Millions of people answered a simple yes/no question to accept or throw out the peace deal between the centre-right government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Marxist Farc guerrilla movement.

The historic agreement, which has already been signed but has to be ratified by the Colombian people, took four years of talks in Cuba.

It will see the former guerrillas reformed as a political movement. There are also proposals to hand over weapons, to demine vast areas of the country and to end the Farc's involvement in the drugs trade, through which they financed their operations.

After so many years of war, many Colombians strongly support the deal while others say the government has made too many concessions.

Both sides say there is no Plan "B" if the peace agreement is rejected.

The Farc's 52-year fight

Image copyright Reuters

1964: Set up as armed wing of Communist Party

2002: At its height, it had an army of 20,000 fighters controlling up to a third of the country. Senator Ingrid Betancourt kidnapped and held for six years along with 14 other hostages

2008: The Farc suffers a series of defeats in its worst year

2012: Start of peace talks in Havana

2016: Definitive ceasefire

Full timeline of Farc conflict

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