Magazine article Newsweek

A Perilous Peace Plan

Magazine article Newsweek

A Perilous Peace Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: Mac Margolis

In Colombia, the president lost his popularity after he sought to end a 50-year insurgency.

A few months ago Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was on a roll. Two out of three Colombians approved of the Santos government--a rock star standing by the bruising political standards of the Andes. The country's $370 billion economy was soaring, overtaking Argentina as the fifth largest in Latin America. Foreign investors lined up as prospectors found oil, gas, and coal practically everywhere they dug. Crime, once a national scourge, was plunging. The only thing missing was peace. And so, late last year, the savvy 62-year-old economist turned president declared, "The stars are aligned," and set out to secure a peace deal that would end the insurgency by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has lasted more than half a century.

But, after 12 tough rounds of negotiations in Havana, even the significantly weakened FARC may be proving too hard for Santos to handle. Certainly, hope of a peace deal by November looks increasingly unlikely. So far, the government and the rebels have come to agreement on just one item on a five-point agenda: land reform and rural redevelopment. And as Santos himself has said: "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

As negotiations have dragged on, the national mood has dragged down. The most recent polls show that two thirds of the country now disapproves of the peace effort or the way the government is handling it. …

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