Why did the No win in Colombia?

By Miguel Sorans


The result of the plebiscite in Colombia has caused a global impact. The adjusted victory of the No to the peace agreement of the Santos government and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] — endorsed by Cuba, Obama, the UN, the Pope, Maduro, and Macri, among others —, has surprised everyone.

The NO won with a difference of only 55,000 votes (6,432,000 to 6,377,000). Apparently, the only winner would be the rightist former President Alvaro Uribe, who promoted the No. This can lead to the conclusion that this result is a “new” expression of an alleged “right turn” that exists in Latin America. This is not the case. They are new distorted expressions of the anger of millions to the “covenants” of those above.

The other data of the plebiscite is that what actually triumphs is abstention that reached 63 percent. One could argue that in Colombia, where voting is not compulsory, this is a “normal” abstention. But given the exceptional event of an agreement that was endorsed by all powers and political figures of the world, from Obama to Raul Castro through the world reformist left and even the Pope, that an abstention rate of 63 percent is maintained shows that workers and Colombian peasants did not see that this agreement was going to change their life of exploitation and misery.

The workers and popular sectors of large cities did not see that the agreements would affect positively anything and therefore did not vote. The plebiscite did not motivate sectors of the population to vote.

The urban areas of majority middle-class composition (except Bogota, Cali and Barranquilla), minorities in the occupation of territory and less affected in terms of confrontation, imposed the majority. In places where the FARC presence was strong, the NO also won, such as in the provinces of Meta, Caqueta (where the FARC made their last conference), Tolima and Huila.

The background of this result is explained by several reasons. First, the political and military degeneration of the FARC in its later years took them to earn the growing rejection among the population, who daily saw the FARC acting counter to their interests. In addition, they were also identified as a decadent and corrupt guerrilla linked to drug trafficking. Therefore this agreement was frowned upon as it offered a number of perquisites for years to its members, while the agreement did not mean either land reform or large social gains for peasants and workers. Uribe took advantage of this for his vote for the No, which resulted in a punishment vote to the FARC.

Second, the result also reflected the disbelief of the masses in this pro-bosses and pro-US government of Santos, which has been implementing an economic plan against the people. The 63 percent abstention is also a rejection of the agreements of those above. It shows that the masses do not defer to the Pope and the heads of imperialism in whom they do not believe. With this, we do not aim to make the simplistic caricature that those millions are moving to the left. Of course, there are in Colombia sectors of middle and upper class which are the electoral base of Uribe. But it is categorical that an important part of the popular vote for NO and the abstention are not of the right but that they express, in a way, their hatred of the agreements of those above. Which are those who in Colombia for years endorsed the actions of violence by security forces and the military arguing the guerrillas always repressed the peasants and workers in their claims. The same reactionary governments who supported the Plan Colombia of the United States (Santos was defence minister in the government of Uribe) and who let run para-militarism and drug trafficking associated with the mafias of the US.

Our socialist current has always denounced that this agreement did not mean any solution to the underlying problems of the Colombian people. The result of the plebiscite opens a political crisis in Colombia. The government of Santos, imperialism, Cuba, the leadership of the Cuban CP and the FARC have been paralysed. Surely new negotiations will open in which representatives of the NO led by Alvaro Uribe will be present. It is not by chance this nefarious character of Colombia’s far-right has stated that the solution is a National Pact of all political actors of which he and his party had been excluded in the initial negotiations.


This article originally appeared in International Correspondence N° 39, October 2016.