Colombians vote on historic referendum on peace

BOGATA, Colombia, Oct. 2 (UPI) — Colombians headed to the polls Sunday despite heavy rain from Hurricane Matthew to vote on a referendum on a peace agreement between the government and rebels.

In parts of Colombia’s Caribbean, heavy rains delayed the opening of some voting locations. The national Attorney General’s office announced early Sunday that aside from weather delays, voting had “total normality” across Colombia.

The 11,034 polling places opened at 8 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m., the national elections commission said.

Some 34.8 million citizens are eligible to vote “Yes” or “No” on the agreement between President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group. At least 13 percent of eligible voters — or 4,536,993 Colombians — must approve the deal for it to pass.

The referendum will allow Colombia to “end a 52-year war, opening the path for peace, and peace will take us to a better future,” Santos said.

“In spite of the rain and the bad weather in some places, Colombians can be — and should be — the protagonists of this historic change for our country,” the president said while holding an umbrella after voting shortly after 8 a.m. in central Bogota.

Last Monday, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, also known as “Timochenko,” signed the agreement ending the civil war.

The agreement was signed in Cartagena, Colombia, after nearly four years of talks in Havana.

The agreement includes a timetable for the FARC to stop fighting and become a legal political organization. An international verification mechanism also will be established to ensure that both sides fulfill the agreement.

Ex-president Alvaro Uribe supports the “no” vote.

According to a poll by Datexco released late last month, the “yes” vote was favored over “no” by a margin of 55 percent to 37 percent.

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