- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2016

The White House acknowledged Monday it was “surprised” by Colombian voters’ rejection of a peace agreement with an infamous rebel group, a deal that President Obama has promoted enthusiastically.

“I think everybody was surprised by this outcome,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “I think all of the analysis that was done in advance predicted that it would be ratified by the Colombian people. It wasn’t.”

Colombians on Sunday narrowly voted down President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rejecting a bid to end the longest-running war in the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono have promised a new era of peace, but 50.2 percent of citizens voting in a referendum refused to sign off on the deal to disarm the FARC guerrillas and accept them in the political process.

In August, Mr. Obama hailed the peace accord as proof that “sustained commitment to diplomacy and reconciliation can overcome even the most entrenched conflicts.” He had sent a special envoy to help with the negotiations.

The White House said Monday that the referendum was proof of Mr. Obama’s observation that democracy is often “messy.”

“It’s important for a government to be responsive to the will of the people,” Mr. Earnest said. “The margin here was quite narrow and I think it’s an indication that there is still some work to do to meet the needs and expectations of the Colombian people.”

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