CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — The Latest on the signing of a historic peace deal in Colombia (all times local):
A few hundred supporters of conservative former President Alvaro Uribe are protesting Colombia’s peace accord. They believe it’s too lenient on guerrilla leaders accused of war crimes.
Uribe addressed the crowd dressed in the yellow, blue and red of Colombia’s flag on the outskirts of Cartagena, far from where Monday’s signing ceremony will take place.
Amid shouts of “No to the referendum,” Uribe argued that the accord puts Colombia on the path to becoming a leftist dictatorship.
He said Mexico would never give impunity to that country’s drug gangs, “so why does Colombia have to give impunity to the world’s biggest cocaine cartel?” It’s a reference to involvement in the drug trade by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Under the peace accord, the guerrillas will disarm and form a political organization. Uribe added: “Why does Colombia have to allow the election of those who have kidnapped 11,700 children or raped 6,800 women?”
Protesters also yelled that current President Juan Manuel Santos, who is a former ally of Uribe and whose government struck the deal with the FARC, “is a coward.”
Guerrillas in the southern plains of Colombia are eagerly anticipating the signing of a historic peace accord.
“Paula” is the nom de guerre of a 32-year-old rebel who has spent the last 18 years of her life with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
She says the peace deal means she no longer has to worry about being killed by a bomb or while facing the enemy on the battlefield.
“It is my rebirth,” she says. “It’s like a dream.”
A 26-year-old guerrilla who goes by “Franklin” says he hopes to make a future as a doctor after 12 years at war with the FARC.
He says “I pinch myself and still don’t believe it.”
The peace accord after decades of bloody conflict is set to be signed later Monday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging young Colombians to embrace the country’s peace process for the sake of future generations.
At a round table in Cartagena, Colombia, Kerry spoke with former combatants who voluntarily left the guerrillas, land-mine victims and members of anti-rebel recruitment group.
Kerry told attendees that “anybody can pick up a gun, blow up things, hurt people,” but it will not be about positive change. He said the United States is “very invested in your struggle for change.”
The secretary of state is among a number of foreign dignitaries in Colombia to attend Monday’s signing of a peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Kerry said that the U.S., Norway and partner countries raised $105 million last week for de-mining the country over the next five years.
There’s tight security and a festive mood in the air in the Colombian city of Cartagena as leftist guerrillas and the government are set to sign a historic peace deal.
More than 2,700 troops have been deployed to guarantee the security of 15 Latin American heads of state at Monday’s ceremony.
U.N. Secretary-General ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are also scheduled to witness the signing in the Caribbean city.
The peace accord is the product of four years of tough negotiations in Havana between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
The South American nation’s five-decade conflict, partly fueled by the cocaine trade, has killed more than 220,000 people and driven 8 million from their homes.