Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos says the peace deal with the Farc rebel group will boost economic growth and will enable the country to rebuild its social fabric.
“War is always more costly than peace,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
Mr Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, will sign a historic peace deal later on Monday.
But it will take a long time for Colombian society to recover from more than five decades of conflict, he said.
“We could have grown between 2% and 3% more per year for the past 23 years,” said Mr Santos.
The conflict has also had a profound impact on Colombian society, Mr Santos told the BBC’s Lyse Doucet.
“We have even lost our compassion, which is the ability to feel some kind of pain for others.
“A country at war for 50 years is a country that has destroyed many of its values,” said President Santos.
Colombia’s peace deal makes history in many ways, most of all for ending the last of the Cold War conflicts. But it also breaks new ground in trying to balance the desire for peace with the demands of justice which bedevil all peace talks.
There’s no amnesty, unlike all previous peace accords in the region. Farc, as well as Colombia’s security forces, have accepted special tribunals and a truth and reconciliation process.
Many of the victims of Farc’s brutality have been brought into the process. If polls are to be believed, a majority will vote to accept this deal. But I kept meeting people in Bogota and Cartagena who said they’ll vote no.
Fifty years of war also means decades of hatred and mistrust. Many doubt Farc will give up all its lucrative criminal activities. Will this deal also make history in being a peace deal which doesn’t fall apart?
The peace agreement was sealed after nearly four years of talks, which were held in the Cuban capital, Havana.
“The signature of the deal is simply the end of the conflict. Then the hard work starts: reconstructing our country,” he said.
Senior members of Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) voted unanimously to ratify the deal on the last day of their conference on Friday.
But the peace accord will only be implemented if approved by a majority of Colombian voters in a referendum to be held on Sunday.
Mr Santos said he was “very, very confident” that most Colombians would vote in favour of the deal.
“The latest polls say that between 65% and 70% of the people approve of the peace process,” he said
“Peace is the victory for everybody.”
The Colombian president said that if the agreement was to be rejected in the referendum, the conflict would start again.
“We will go back six years and continue the war with the Farc. That’s plan B,” he said.
Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN (National Liberation Army), announced on Sunday a unilateral ceasefire until the referendum.
ELN leaders have publicly expressed their wish to engage in their own peace process with the Colombian government.
Mr Santos said the deal with the Farc was fair and that it made those who committed war crimes accountable.
The rebels have agreed to lay down their weapons and the process that will be verified by the United Nations.
“Maybe some of them will hide some guns. That’s a natural thing that happens in these peace processes,” he said.
“But they are going to give up the majority of their weapons.”
An estimated 220,000 people have died in the conflict. More than six million people have been internally displaced.
A final peace deal between the two sides was announced on 24 August in the Cuban capital, Havana, where the negotiations took place.
Five days later a bilateral ceasefire came into force, effectively ending the conflict.
Mr Santos, Farc leaders and heads of state from around the world, have been arriving in the historic port city of Cartagena for the signature of the peace accord on Monday evening.
If the agreement is approved in next weekend’s referendum, Farc will become a political party and join the legal political process from next year.
“Nobody likes the Farc. They’ve committed atrocities,” Mr Santos told the BBC.
“But when you vote yes, they will disappear. They will cease to exist as a dark group.”
Mr Santos said that as part of the peace agreement Farc had agreed to cut all links with drug trafficking and help farmers shift from the production of coca leaves to legal crops.(BBC News)
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