People have told Milton Sanchez he should keep his opinions about Colombia’s peace process to himself. After all, they argue, he lives abroad, in the United States, so he isn’t affected by it. For Sanchez, this is a low blow.
A few years ago, back in Colombia, his father was kidnapped, tortured and killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist rebel group known as the FARC. Milton fled the country. He now lives in Washington DC, where he works as a mental health specialist.
The conflict between the rebels and the Colombian government has been raging on for 52 years. Recently, it seemed like it might come to a halt. Both parties signed a peace deal and on Sunday it went to popular vote. It was widely expected to win. Many Colombians were shocked when the majority of voters said "no" to the deal.
Sanchez is one of those who voted against it. He says it did not feel like an agreement that included all of Colombia — a diverse nation of almost 50 million. He also says he wanted more accountability for the crimes perpetrated by the FARC against people like his father.
“We’re not saying we want war,” Sanchez explains. “We want an agreement. We want peace. But we want authentic peace.”
Other “no” voters voiced concerns over the political representation it promised FARC — 10 unelected seats in Congress — which they feared could push the country to the left.
“We want peace, what we don’t want is to become like Venezuela,” one woman tweeted.
But many other victims of the conflict voted “yes.” “I was 100 percent sure I wanted a new chapter in Colombian history,” journalist Luis Gallo told The World this week. His father was also killed by the FARC. And like many in Colombia, his family was divided over which way to vote on Sunday.
One thing both sides of the debate agree on is that Colombia’s future remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the government and the rebel group are in renewed peace talks, and both have stated a commitment to building a lasting peace.