Neither at war nor fully at peace, Marxist rebels in southern Colombia who want to lay down their weapons are instead killing time and contemplating whether they will be called back into combat.

It's a surreal state of affairs, brought on by a stalemate over an agreement to end Colombia's 52-year-old guerrilla war. The accord was signed last month but then rejected by Colombian voters in a binding referendum on Oct. 2. Now, the entire peace process is on hold, leaving thousands of guerrillas in limbo.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has extended a cease-fire with the Marxist FARC rebels until Dec. 31, as he tries to salvage a peace deal that was narrowly rejected in a nationwide referendum.

The agreement was intended to end the guerrilla war that has dragged on for more than 50 years and killed more than 220,000 people, as John Otis reports for NPR from Bogota. He adds:

"After four years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the rebel group known as the FARC last month signed a peace agreement.

Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his "resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."

The surprise announcement comes less than a week after Colombian voters delivered a shocking blow to the peace process, and the award notably excludes any leaders of the FARC guerilla group, the other side of the negotiating table.

The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group have spent four years negotiating a peace deal to bring an end to more than 50 years of war.

Terms were agreed on, a deal was finalized, the accord was signed — and then, in a stunning turn of events, the people of Colombia voted against the agreement in a national referendum Sunday.

So. What now?

Associated Press

War or peace?

Those stark options faced Colombians on Sunday — and, by a margin of less than 1 percentage point, Colombians voted to remain at war. In a referendum that aimed to end Latin America's longest guerrilla conflict, voters rejected a peace agreement that would have disarmed the Marxist rebel group known as the FARC. The conflict, which began in the 1960s, has killed more than 200,000 people.

Ricardo Mazalan / AP

I won’t deny it – the leftist guerrillas who signed peace with the Colombian government this week are more Mafia than Marx.

In 1998 I spent almost a week in Colombia’s southern Caquetá province with those rebels, the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, or FARC. Back then the FARC was Caquetá’s de facto government, controlling territory the size of Switzerland. Photographer Keith Dannemiller and I boated up and down the sweltering Caguán River talking with guerrillas and hearing why they’d joined up.

Families are divided over Colombia's peace vote

Sep 27, 2016
Felipe Caicedo/Reuters

Colombia is on the threshold of a new era: a peaceful one.

For 52 years, there's been violence between the government and rebels who see themselves as defenders of the poor.

The main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, formally signed a peace deal with the government Monday in a solemn ceremony in the coastal city of Cartagena.

But there's a hitch. Colombians have to approve the deal in a referendum this weekend. And there is a powerful "no" campaign.

The vote is dividing families.

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Like the offspring of other crime godfathers, the son of the late Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was expected to follow his father into the family business. Instead, he has come clean.

The son, the former Juan Pablo Escobar, has changed his name to Sebastián Marroquín. In response to the many homes and offices his father destroyed with car bombs, he studied architecture so he could put up buildings. And he spends much of his time barnstorming across Latin America as a motivational speaker, denouncing the illegal drug trade and his father's ultra-violent ways.

Fernando Llano AP

  This week, three batches of mosquitoes found in traps in Miami Beach tested positive for Zika. In another important development, the Florida Department of Health admitted  it may take longer for pregnant women to get their Zika test results back. WLRN’s health reporter Sammy Mack fills us in on the latest on the Zika epidemic in South Florida. 

Tim Padgett /

Colombia’s protracted peace talks have put a serious dent in President Juan Manuel Santos’ approval rating at home – and across the Caribbean.

Santos is probably most unpopular in South Florida, home to the U.S.’s largest Colombian community, which is strongly opposed to peace with Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas, known as the FARC.

In a 2014 interview with WLRN, Santos – who has staked his presidential legacy on ending his South American nation’s 52-year-old civil war – took a dig at Colombian expats here.


The Colombian government and Marxist guerrillas known as the FARC have been at war for 52 years. But tonight both sides confirmed from their negotiating table in Havana, Cuba, that a peace agreement has finally been forged.

"[We] have reached a final, full and definite accord," they said in a joint statement.

Colombia’s civil war is Latin America’s last guerrilla conflict. It has left more than 200,000 people dead and millions more displaced. Peace talks began three years ago, and this summer the two sides announced a mutual cease-fire.

Fernando Llano / AP via Miami Herald

For the past year, the border between Venezuela and Colombia has effectively been closed. That’s only worsened the suffering of Venezuelans who can’t find enough food and medicine inside their collapsing economy. But relief may be coming tomorrow.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shut down his country’s western border last year for what he called “security reasons.” Critics said he was just trying to deflect attention from his catastrophic mismanagement of Venezuela’s economy – which has led to severe shortages of basic goods.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

In Latin America, scientists have become more convinced of the link between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the birth defect known as microcephaly. Colombia is the one country that hasn’t fit the pattern. But that may now be changing.

Microcephaly causes unusually small heads and brains in newborn infants. Many Latin American countries – especially Brazil – have reported cases believed to be related to Zika infection in pregnant women. 

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