Last week, the English press seem to have missed an opportunity for the coverage of the Columbian Referendum. Taking place on Sunday 2nd October, it was left to the people to decide whether to form a peace alliance between the government and the FARC guerrillas (so-called leftist rebels), or not.
For 52 years now, the longest civil war in history has been unfolding in Columbia, costing thus far hundreds of thousands of lives. The Government had been trying to diminish the socialist parties in the country, which in turn incited a backlash of drug wars, when it in August 2012, negotiations began to attempt to establish peace within the country. The plan was to allow leftist parties to become involved in politics, and have their say. Both parties had come to an agreement of peace, when the decision was passed over to the Columbian population. Despite an overwhelming 60% of people who didn’t vote, the narrow margin of 50.2% to 49.8% of voters meant that any initiative to establish peace has been abandoned. The people have voted for war.
This result seems to beg the question as to the danger of referendums. Given the statistics, a small proportion of the population (considering that over half did not vote) have decided that the country will continue on in a state of warfare, despite the two concerned parties wanting peace. Instead of leaving this decision to those who have been educated in politics, it was passed to people who often would base their decision on word of mouth. The controversial vote for the promotion of violence leaves unanswered the question of whether people deserve a say in the running of their own country, or whether important decisions need to be left to those who have been educated and fully informed in the concerned field.