Colombia will take a big step towards the end of the armed conflict waged between the FARC, the Colombian Government and numerous paramilitary factions by signing a peace pact.
The significance of the deal can't be overstated: Colombia's five-decade conflict, partly fueled by the nation's cocaine trade, has caused more than 267,000 violent deaths as well as millions of victims, making Colombia the country with the second highest number of internally displaced people in the world, over 7 million.
The peace deal, negotiated over the past four years in the city of Havana, Cuba, would culminate in the transition of the FARC from an armed insurgency group, formed 52 years ago, into a political party accorded minor congressional representation.
Underlining the importance of the day, the pact is being signed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and by the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel fighter known by the alias Timochenko. Fifteen Latin American presidents, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to witness the signing in the colonial Caribbean city of Cartagena.
The database of the National Union School of Colombia (ENS) paints a torrid picture of the woes bestowed upon Colombia’s unionists: from 1986, the year marking the creation of the country’s largest union confederation (the CUT) until August 26, 2016 (the date of the formal end of the peace negotiations), 14,103 violations have been recorded against this population, including 3,043 murders, 6,872 death threats and 1,895 forced displacements. The ceremony late Monday afternoon will be charged with symbolism. The more than 2,500 guests have been invited to wear white as a sign of peace, and Santos will put his signature on the 297-page accord with a pen made from a recycled shell used in combat.
The signing won't close the deal, though. Colombians are being given the final say on endorsing or rejecting the accord in an Oct. 2 referendum. Opinion polls point to an almost-certain victory for the "yes" vote, but some analysts warn that a closer-than-expected finish or low voter turnout could bode poorly for the many challenges the country faces implementing the ambitious accord.