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Colombian leader asks elite to back landmark peace deal

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos delivers a speech during the opening of the Center for Integral Rehabilitation for soldiers and police officers victims of armed conflict, in Bogota, Colombia on August 29, 2016. Colombia began its first day of peace with the country's largest insurgency after a ceasefire between the FARC and the government went into effect, ending 52 years of warfare. GUILLERMO LEGARIA / AFP

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos delivers a speech during the opening of the Center for Integral Rehabilitation for soldiers and police officers victims of armed conflict, in Bogota, Colombia on August 29, 2016. Colombia began its first day of peace with the country’s largest insurgency after a ceasefire between the FARC and the government went into effect, ending 52 years of warfare.<br />GUILLERMO LEGARIA / AFP

Colombian President Juan-Manuel Santos urged the country’s elite to back a peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels to end a half-century of conflict.

“I am sure that the Colombian people understand that an imperfect peace is preferable to 20 or 30 years of war,” he said in an interview published Sunday in Spanish daily El Pais.

The peace deal is due to be signed on September 26 in Cartagena ahead of an October referendum on final ratification of the historic accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Once the deal is formally signed, the FARC, launched in 1964, will have 180 days to demobilise, disarm and relaunch itself as a political party. The UN has agreed to monitor the process.

Santos slammed the country’s upper crust for opposing the deal, saying the gilded circle — of which he was member — was “misinformed.”

“I don’t understand why my peers in the elite, of which I am part — I am a member of the poshest clubs in the capital — have allowed themselves to be misinformed on the advantages of peace.

“I am sad to see that these people… don’t understand the importance of taking these steps to leave our children a more peaceful country,” he said.

He said the accord “will change the history of Colombia.”

The conflict, which has drawn in various left- and right-wing armed groups and gangs, has left 260,000 dead, 45,000 missing and 6.9 million uprooted from their homes.

On October 2, Colombians will vote on this question: “Do you support the final accord to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?”



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