Colombia in uncharted territory with peace deal's defeat

Santos recently said a "no" vote would mean a return to war, and opinion polls had predicted he would win comfortably.

With more than 99 per cent of polling stations reporting on Sunday, 50.2 per cent of ballots opposed the accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while 49.8 per cent were in favour - a difference of less than 57,000 votes out of 13 million. The Colombian President said earlier last week that his government does not have a back-up plan if the people decide to reject the ceasefire.

Most of those who voted "No" said they thought the peace agreement was letting the rebels "get away with murder".

Disappointment at the result was recorded on social media in hashtags like #MeDuelesColombia ('You Hurt Me Colombia') #PaisInsensato (Foolish Country) which began trending on Twitter in the immediate aftermath. Some were in tears while others chanted "we want peace". For the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us. And here we have an opportunity that's opening up, with the new political reality that has demonstrated itself in the referendum, ' Santos said Sunday night before descending to the steps of the presidential palace to address a small group of supporters, some of waving white flags symbolizing peace.

The FARC, for its part, stated in a communiqué that it "deeply regret (s) that the destructive power of those who sow hatred and rancor have influenced the opinion of the Colombian population", concluding that it "maintains its will for peace and reiterates its willingness to only use the word as a weapon of construction towards the future".

TeleSUR English said: "Now the questions arise as to why would the Colombian people vote against peace".

Stocks fell too - the MSCI Colombia, which represents the country's largest publicly-traded companies - quickly shed 3% once markets opened. Despite this, two major cities, Medellin and Bucaramanga, saw a major victory for No, which proved crucial to the result.

The Global X MSCI Colombia 20 ETF fell 3.6 percent to $9.15 as Bancolombia SA, the country's biggest bank, slumped 3.2 percent and cement maker Cemex Latam Holdings SA dropped as much as 4 percent to a seven-month low.

Influential former President Alvaro Uribe led the "no" camp, arguing that rebels should pay for crimes in jail and never be given congressional seats.

Less than a week ago, he was celebrating with world leaders and Farc commanders the end of Latin America's last and longest-running armed conflict at a ceremony in the historic city of Cartagena.

The agreement contained several contentious issues. They are also angry over provisions in the accords that would allow rebels accused of war crimes to escape prison if they confess before a special tribunal.

Some of those who had gathered to watch the result on giant screens expressed their disappointment.

They also balked at the government's plan to pay demobilized Farc rebels a monthly stipend and to offer those wanting to start a business financial help.

His party, while attracting some well known politicians, is essentially a one-man show with Uribe defining its policies. She said the FARC killed her grandfather in 2011. "It would be a national disaster if we create the illusion that we could negotiate better conditions".

One option for the government would be to reopen negotiations, something Santos had ruled out previously and his chief negotiator said would be "catastrophic". This leaves Colombia prey to a hard situation: uncertainty.

But it's not clear how the already unpopular Santos and FARC leaders can save the deal following the political quake, comparable to Britain's vote to exit the European Union.

Quickly assuaging the fear of a return to war, both government and Farc quickly said that despite the setback they would insist on peace. He also promised to listen to opponents in a bid to strengthen the deal, which he said is Colombia's best chance for ending a conflict that has killed 220,000 people and driven nearly 8 million people from their homes.

A survey by a peace and development research institute estimated the economic loss had reached 179 billion United States dollars.

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