Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize, but he has yet to actually win peace in his home country.
President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just days after Colombians rejected a peace deal that he had orchestrated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a left-wing nationalist guerilla group that has been helped perpetuate an ideological war inside Colombia for 52 years.
"He was overwhelmed," a Norwegian Nobel Committee member said of Santos after speaking to him on the phone. "He was very grateful. He said it was of invaluable importance to further the peace process in Colombia."
In August, we reported on the deal President Santos was pushing with FARC and how the armed conflict with the Colombian government has killed more than 220,000 people, displaced more than 5 million, and involved the kidnappings of countless others.
At the time of the deal, A Plus spoke to several Colombian residents who were skeptical of President Santos' motivation and the concessions of the deal given to rebel group.
"Impunity is the aspect about this agreement that worries me the most," Felipe Delgado, a 25-year-old resident of Colombia, said. "We're talking about people who have massacred innocent people for no reason, kidnapped thousands, and have funded their actions with drugs for decades. And they won't pay any time in jail? Seriously?"
Some residents suggested Santos was only after the deal to be the president that got it done and would do anything to make it happen, perhaps giving too much to the FARC group. Part of the deal included impunity for FARC rebels, and positions of political power and representation within the Colombian government.
"They will spend zero days in prison, they will be awarded with political representation," Paloma Valencia, a senator who is advocating against the deal, told The New York Times. "This deal breaks the rule of law."
In the wake of the vote, it appears millions of Colombians shared a similar sentiment. The peace deal failed in a referendum by an incredibly narrow margin last Sunday.
Now, Santos is doing everything he can to restore conversations and get back to the negotiating table. Notably, FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, who signed the peace deal with Santos, was not recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
Londono — better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko — responded on Twitter without indignation at not being recognized. "The only prize to which we aspire is that of peace with social justice for a Colombia without paramilitarism, without retaliation nor lies," he wrote.
Santos is the first Latin American to win the Nobel Peace Prize since Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan indigenous rights campaigner who won in 1992.
If you asked Colombians 10 or 15 years ago, most probably would not have expected Santos to win the award. He was defence minister under defence minister under ex-president Alvaro Uribe, whose presidency was most known for involving the U.S. military in an offensive that weekend FARC between 2002 and 2010.
When he came into office, Santos surprised many by opening up negotiations with FARC for a peace deal. After four long years, the deal was signed and nearly put into practice before the "no" referendum by Colombian citizens. Santos had hoped that with the deal done he could turn his attention to economic matters, but for now, it looks like they'll have to keep working.
Hopefully, the peace prize will give Colombians on both sides the momentum to get it done.
Cover photo: Wikicommons