Canada offers $21M to help Colombia make peace deal stick
Foreign leaders in Cartagena for today's signing of deal to end war between government and FARC guerrillas
As the Western Hemisphere's only active war comes to a formal end later today in a signing ceremony in Cartagena, Canada has announced a new package of aid to help Colombia reform its police, remove landmines and resettle its displaced people.
The peace accord formally ends the world's longest-running war after 52 years of continuous conflict between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by its Spanish acronym FARC.
Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion travelled to the Caribbean city for the signing ceremony, which will be attended by 16 heads of state, as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Canada's Trudeau government has said it wants to help Colombia make the peace stick, and to that end announced a series of new initiatives today.
Over the next three years, Canada will contribute a total of $21 million to Colombia. That would be in addition to money already announced over the summer when news of the peace breakthrough first emerged from the Cuban compound where Colombian government negotiators and FARC leaders have been cloistered for the past four years.
The largest share of the money that is already earmarked will go to helping what Colombia calls its Rapid Response Strategy, which aims at tamping down any local flare-ups that might threaten the peace, and encouraging reconciliation between former enemies.
Canada will also help to pay for a "train the trainers" program to build the capacity of Colombia's National Police.
Colombia has the world's second largest number of landmines, and many were seeded by guerrilla forces without adequate mapping or record-keeping, making their removal much more difficult. Some Canadian money will go to the de-mining efforts of the Colombian government and to landmine education for people living in affected areas.
Canadian observers for peace referendum
Canada will also send a team of observers to witness the country's referendum next Sunday. The peace deal will only come into effect if it can win a majority in that vote. Many Colombians oppose the deal for making too many concessions to the Marxist guerrillas. The most problematic clause is one that guarantees the rebel group 10 non-voting congressional seats until 2026.
Opponents of the deal, most prominently former president Alvaro Uribe, accuse the current government of allowing FARC to bomb and kidnap its way into Congress.
Recent polling, though, suggests that a majority Colombians are willing to swallow those objections in the interests of a peace deal.