Colombia's Congress formally ratified a revised peace agreement with Colombia's biggest leftist rebel group Wednesday night, capping a torturous four years of negotiations, a stunning referendum rejection, last-minute compromises, and two signing ceremonies. The initial pact was narrowly rejected by voters last month, and President Juan Manuel Santos decided to skip a referendum on the new version and go directly to congress, where the deal's supporters hold a majority. Opponents, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, boycotted the legislative votes, which resulted in unanimous approval by the Senate on Tuesday and by the lower house late Wednesday, the AP reports.
The new accord with FARC rebels introduced 50 changes to the initial deal in an attempt to assuage opponents as the government seeks to end a 52-year conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people and driven almost 8 million from their homes. The modifications include a commitment from the rebels to forfeit assets, some amassed through drug trafficking, to help compensate victims. Santos said ratification will set in motion the start of a six-month process in which the FARC's 8,000-plus guerrillas will concentrate in some 20 rural areas and turn over their weapons to United Nations monitors. But the rebels insist their troops won't start demobilizing until lawmakers pass an amnesty law freeing some 2,000 rebels in jail. (Santos won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the conflict.)