Colombian Referendum on Farc Luis Acosta/Getty Images

Colombia’s “Brexit”

Peacemaking is always a divisive enterprise – so divisive, in fact, that it is often thwarted by politics within the antagonists’ own camps. That is precisely what happened in Colombia recently, when voters narrowly rejected a laboriously negotiated peace accord between the government and the FARC guerrillas.

CARTAGENA – Peacemaking is always a divisive enterprise – so divisive, in fact, that it is often thwarted by politics within the antagonists’ own camps. That is precisely what happened in Colombia recently, when voters narrowly rejected a laboriously negotiated peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Plebiscites and referenda may seem like the purest manifestation of democracy; in fact, they are a favorite tool of leaders who rely on deceit and mendacity. There is a reason why dictators and autocrats so often embrace them.

Unsurprisingly, Colombia’s plebiscite – like the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum in June – was far from a triumph of democracy. With Hurricane Matthew preventing hundreds of thousands of people from voting in areas where polls indicated support for the deal, only 37% of Colombia’s 34 million eligible voters turned out. In that context, the “No” camp’s razor-thin margin of victory – just 0.4% – is even less compelling.

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