OSLO, Norway (AP) — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a five-decades-long c...
Colombian leader Juan Manuel Santos wins Nobel Peace Prize
The award came just days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected the peace deal that Santos helped bring about, and Nobel judges conspicuously left out his counterpart, Rodrigo Londono, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, from the honor.
"The referendum was not a vote for or against peace," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, insisting the peace process wasn't dead. "What the 'No' side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement."
Colombian voters rejected the deal Sunday by the narrowest of margins — less than a half percentage point — over concerns that the rebels, who were behind scores of atrocities, were getting a sweetheart deal. Under the terms of the accord, rebels who turn over their weapons and confess their crimes will be spared jail time and the FARC instead would be given 10 seats in congress through 2026.
Santos and Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the peace deal last month after more than four years of negotiations in Cuba. Six days after the deal was signed, Colombians rejected it in the referendum.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it believes that Santos, despite the "No" vote, "has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution."
It said the award should also be seen "as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process."
Santos, 65, is an unlikely peacemaker. The Harvard-educated scion of one of Colombia's wealthiest families, as defense minister a decade ago, he was responsible for some of the FARC's biggest military setbacks. Those included a 2008 cross-border raid into Ecuador that took out a top rebel commander and the stealth rescue of three Americans held captive by the rebels for more than five years.
Santos and Londono met only twice during the entire peace process: last year when they put the final touches on the most-controversial section of the accord — the part dealing with how guerrillas would be punished for war crimes — and last month to sign the accord before an audience of world leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The Colombian vote Sunday was also seen as a referendum of sorts on Santos, who has staked his presidency on securing peace but in the process, critics say, neglected the economy and other pressing issues. Santos' approval rating in July was near the lowest it has been since he took office in 2010.
Prize committee chair Kaci Kullmann Five said that Santos has made clear that he will continue to work for peace in Colombia.
"The Committee hopes that the peace prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task," she said.
Committee secretary Olav Njoelstad said there was "broad consensus" on picking Santos as this year's Nobel peace laureate.
It was the first time the peace prize went to Latin America since 1992, when the committee awarded Guatemalan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchu.
A record 376 candidates were nominated for this year's award, which carries a prize of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $930,000).
Last year's peace prize went to Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet for its efforts to build a pluralistic democracy.
The 2016 Nobel Prize announcements continue next week with the economics prize on Monday and the literature award on Thursday. All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.
Ritter reported from Stockholm. Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.