Colombians reject FARC peace deal by tiny margin

In a dramatic turn of events, Colombians have rejected a landmark peace agreement reached with FARC rebels, with just over 50 percent voting against the deal in a snap referendum.

Colombian voters rejected a peace deal with the Marxist FARC organization, with 50.24 percent of people voting against peace in a public referendum on Sunday.

The deal was agreed on last week by Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono (alias Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez) after four years of negotiations. In order to come into force the deal required the general support of the public via referendum involving over 13 million eligible voters. However, Sunday’s unexpected ‘No’ vote had the edge over those who said ‘Yes’ to the deal by a margin of some 50,000 votes.

FARC rebels, who agreed to lay down their weapons after 52 years of conflict with the central government, are now refusing to negotiate further.

The result comes a surprise, as pre-referendum polls predicted that the country would definitely say ‘Yes’ to the deal in order to cement the end of the decades-long insurgency.

Santos was also confident of a ‘Yes’ result. As he worked on the deal he said that no ‘Plan B’ existed if Colombians rejected the deal. He warned that the country could return to war if the agreement was rejected.

Colombian authorities estimate the decades-long conflict has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced.

Under the peace agreement, around 7,000 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels agreed to surrender their struggle and re-integrate into Colombian civil society. The fighters, along with 17,000 non-combatants also affiliated with the group, were allowed to become a legitimate political party.

Following the plebiscite, however, Santos said the ceasefire will continue and the vote will not affect Colombia's stability. The FARC leader also confirmed that the insurgent group maintains its desire for peace and “reiterates its disposition to use only words as a weapon to build toward the future.”

“To the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us, peace will triumph,” Londono said, as cited by Reuters.