Rejected FARC deal earns Colombian president the Nobel Peace Prize

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Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos smiles as he addresses the media next to his wife and first lady Maria Clemencia de Santos, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, at Narino Palace in Bogota, Colombia, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino - RTSR8SV

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was announced this morning, its laureate chosen from a record 376 nominees. And, as in years past, the Nobel Committee had both a surprise and a message to convey.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, Colombia (voice-over): I don’t receive this in my name, but in the name of all Colombians, especially the millions of victims from this conflict we have been suffering for more than 50 years.

MARGARET WARNER: The new Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, met the news by vowing to ensure that this hemisphere’s longest war will finally, officially be ended.

PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS (through translator): To this cause, I will dedicate my efforts for the remainder of my days. Thanks to God, peace is near. Together, together, as a nation, we will construct it.

MARGARET WARNER: The Nobel announcement came just five days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected a peace deal negotiated between Santos’ government and the FARC rebel group.

But, in Oslo, Norway, the Peace Prize Committee voiced hope.

KACI KULLMANN FIVE, Chair, Norwegian Nobel Committee: The fact that the majority of the voters said no to the peace accord doesn’t necessarily mean that the peace process is dead. What the no-side rejected wasn’t the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.

MARGARET WARNER: In a break with Nobel tradition honoring leaders who settle conflicts, Santos’ counterpart in the peace talks, FARC leader Rodrigo Londono wasn’t recognized by the committee.

Yet, on Twitter today, Londono congratulated Santos and said: “The only prize to which we aspire is that of peace with social justice for Colombia, without paramilitarism, without retaliation, nor lies.”

A prominent former captive of the FARC, Ingrid Betancourt, said the rebels should share the prize. She was kidnapped in 2002 as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency herself, and was held hostage for six years.

INGRID BETANCOURT, Former “FARC” Hostage: It’s hard for me to say it, but I have to be just. And even though they were my captors and I suffered in their hands, I think that it’s true that they transformed themselves. This wouldn’t have been possible eight years ago, when I was abducted.

MARGARET WARNER: Ironically, even as President Santos is recognized internationally, he is facing a political headwinds at home. His approval ratings plummeted below 30 percent early this year, amid rising food prices and dissatisfaction with his handling of the peace talks. It is unclear if today’s honor will make any difference in his standing.

Many Colombians, after a war that claimed more than 220,000 lives, felt the peace agreement was overly generous to the FARC.

For some, the Nobel may do little to change their minds.

JESUS MENDOZA, Construction Worker (through translator): I think it is a farce that that man has won the prize. I think it is a farce.

MARGARET WARNER: Yet the Peace Prize appeared to energize others who have backed the Colombian president.

MANUEL ECHEVARRIA, Peace Accord Supporter (through translator): This international support is going to apply pressure on all involved parties in the negotiation. We think this helps. They all have to understand that the world, too, wants peace in Colombia.

MARGARET WARNER: When Santos himself sat down with the “NewsHour” in February, he acknowledged the difficulties ahead, especially reintegrating thousands of former fighters into society.

PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: Kids that only know how to shoot, they were born in the guerrilla camps. And these have to be retrained and reeducated. And there’s a process. It’s cumbersome, it’s difficult, but it’s necessary.

MARGARET WARNER: But then, the prospects of an accord that the people would accept seemed promising.

PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: A peace agreement is never perfect. Always, you have people from one side or the other criticizing it.

MARGARET WARNER: Now both sides have to renegotiate, even as a cease-fire with the FARC formally expires at the end of this month.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Margaret Warner.

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