Colombian ‘no’ a big blow for Norway

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende admitted to being “extremely disappointed” Monday morning after Colombian voters rejected a peace pact that Norway had helped hammer out between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas. Norway played a key role in the peace deal and its rejection is a huge blow to Norwegian peace-brokering efforts, but Brende said ministry teams will now try to ressurect it.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was all smiles while meeting with Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos at the UN last month and being in Cartagena for peace pact signing ceremonies last week. Now the pact has been rejected by voters, and all involved need to head back to the negotiating table. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartmentet

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende (left) was all smiles while meeting with Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos at the UN last month and being in Cartagena for peace pact signing ceremonies last week. Now the pact has been rejected by voters, and all involved need to head back to the negotiating table. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartmentet

“There’s no doubt we are extremely disappointed,” a clearly saddened Brende told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on an early morning newscast. He had been in Colombia just last week to attend ceremonies when the 300-page peace agreement was signed by government authorities and FARC leaders. The peace deal was supposed to end 52 years of war in Colombia that have killed so many and uprooted millions more.

The agreement was subject, however, to a vote by the people, with a referendum held in Colombia on Sunday. Public opinion polls had indicated it would be approved, so its rejection was a bitter disappointment to those advocating its acceptance. NRK reported that some Colombians cried in anguish and fear that armed conflict will resume, while others were jubilant that democracy had prevailed.

‘Basis for futher talks’
Brende pointed out that voter turnout was low for the referendum and that the peace agreement was ultimately rejected by just a slim majority of those who voted. The referendum results have been accepted, he noted, and he denied that all the work in crafting the rejected agreement was in vain.

On the contrary, Brende noted how the peace pact was very detailed and can serve “as a basis for further talks.” He said a Norwegian team of negotiators has already been asked to return to Havana and try again to improve the agreement, to make it more acceptable to all Colombians. “Of course we’ll try to help,” Brende said.

Opponents of the agreement had complained that FARC guerrillas would avoid prison or accountability for their crimes over the years. Others were unhapy that some FARC officials would get seats in Parliament without having to win election until 2018. Those bashing the peace pact want FARC to be held more accountable for their actions, including kidnapping and violence, instead of basically being granted a massive pardon.

Crucial that cease-fire remains in effect
Brende said Colombia was “very polarized,” with those who still hate the guerrillas remaining unwilling to reconcile and move on. He said he just hopes the cease-fire between the government and FARC will hold: “We can’t go back to a situation where even more people will be killed.”

Negotiations led by Norway and Cuba and with assistance from other countries including Chile began in Oslo four years ago. Brende has said that both sides in the conflict had “shown strong willingness and bravery” in coming as far as they did in drafting the peace pact. Even though the pact was declared to be the best that was possible to produce, Brende said all involved will now go back to the negotiating table and work to improve it.

“We’ll clearly take part,” said Brende after Norway’s efforts to strike peace failed once again. He admitted, though, that “this will be very difficult.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • richard albert

    You are spot-on. I might add, that Norway is rather widely perceived in Latin America as a nation of ‘do-gooders’. Retribution is actually a euphemism. for revenge. The “corbata colombiana” (Colombian Cravat) may be apocryphal, but it still has a huge social impact, Mediation by a nation which values consensus, in the affairs of a nation which wants blood, is doomed, short of an epiphany of some sort. Corrección política is widely ridiculed.

    My guess is that an Anders Breivik would be shot “attempting to escape” before he got to the courthouse.

    “Hvorfor tjue skjell?
    “Jeg løp ut od ammo.

    Moreover, Norway is also perceived as an ally of the US, which is generally true; but that is not necessarily positive, Colombians are still resentful of US involvement in the Panama Insurrection of 1903. Norway is viewed very much as the cat on the lap of Vito Corleone; sort of a sinister Mcguffin. Thanks, people, You tried,

    But:
    *You can’t help people who can’t or won’t take help.
    *Some folks don’t care if you are ‘nice’.
    *The folks that care that you are nice may view it as an opportunity to roll you, and Norway has been rolled a lot, lately.
    *If a nation attempts to intervene with gunboats, it is imperialistic.
    *If a nation attempts to intervene through negotiation, is is a busybody,

    To paraphrase Kipling:
    At the end of the fight is a tombstone white with a name in script impressed,
    And an epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the West.”

    • Gustavo Blandon

      Richard albert I am a Colombian and I am not agreed with you point of view, all Colombians wants the peace, we want a peace for all Colombians, we do not want this kind of agreement. we do want want be ruled like cuba or Venezuela I suggest you to read the agreement. be nice and do a little research about what are talking.

      • richard albert

        It is good to see that Colombians are interested in this forum. The topic which Moomin and I are discussing is not the content of the failed accord, which was rejected by the electorate, as I understand. We are examining a cultural disconnect, Norway’s disappointment at the outcome, and the wisdom of the Norwegian establishment in attempting such a mission. We are concerned that Norway’s well intentioned efforts in fact influenced the outcome in a less than positive way. No one has suggested that the Colombian electorate rejected the measure because they crave conflict. We are suggesting that Norwegians view conflict and solutions in a different and possibly unique way.

        Perhaps you would comment on the widespread perception in Latin America and elsewhere that the US is not wholly to be trusted, and the unfortunate conclusion that Norway is its lap dog?