Colombians narrowly voted down a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist group that finances itself in part through the narcotics trade, in a referendum on Sunday, plunging the nation into uncertainty and dashing President Juan Manuel Santos' painstakingly negotiated plan to end the long-running war, which has claimed many thousands of lives.
The surprise victory for the "no" camp poured cold water on celebration from the White House to the Vatican, at what had seemed to be the end of the longest-running conflict in the Americas.
Matthew Taylor, adjunct senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, said one of the main reasons the plebiscite was voted down was the low voter turnout, a consequence of the apathy surrounding it. The "no" camp won by 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent and voter turnout was just 37 percent.
"A lot of people agreed with certain parts of the referendum but were against others, and that led to apathy and gave the 'no' vote a chance to win," he said, adding that reaching a new peace deal may not bean easy fit.
"There aren't that many concessions the FARC can make," he said. "President Juan Manuel Santos and [FARC commander in chief] 'Timochenko' had said that, if this deal was voted down, there wouldn't be another peace deal. Now they're backpedaling," saying they're willing to negotiate. But "moving forward this leaves government negotiators pretty hamstrung, because they don't know what Colombian voters would be in favor of."
Opponents of the pact believed it was too lenient on the FARC rebels by allowing them to re-enter society, form a political party and escape jail sentences. Opponents want a renegotiation of the deal with rebel leaders serving jail time and receiving no free seats in Congress.
For decades, the FARC bankrolled the longest-running conflict in the Americas through the illegal drug trade, kidnapping and extortion. The conflict took more than 220,000 lives and displaced millions of people. At one stage, the FARC was positioned close to the capital and the state was on the verge of collapse.
—Reuters contributed to this report.