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Colombia, FARC Reach Deal To End Armed Conflict

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Colombia's brutal guerrilla war has dragged on for half a century. But after four years of negotiations, looks like it's coming to an end. President Obama called Colombia's president to congratulate him on what's being called a final peace agreement signed last night in Havana. Here's Reporter John Otis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: The Colombian government and the Marxist rebel group known as the FARC unveiled the agreement at the Havana Convention Center, the site of the negotiations. Humberto de la Calle, the government's top envoy, was euphoric.

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HUMBERTO DE LA CALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: "The best way to win the war was to sit down and negotiate peace," he said. The FARC rose up in the 1960s to fight for land reform and social justice. Although the rebels never came close to seizing power, profits from cocaine trafficking, kidnapping and extortion allowed them to keep fighting. The conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and has uprooted millions from their homes. The stalemate convinced both sides to start peace talks in 2012.

The resulting accord will allow FARC fighters to lay down their weapons and form a left-wing political party that will receive government protection. That's a key point because a similar effort in the 1980s collapsed when right-wing death squads gunned down about 3,000 members of a pro-FARC party.

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IVAN MARQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: At the signing ceremony, FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez declared the battle with weapons now ends and the battle of ideas begins. The accord also calls on the FARC to stop drug trafficking and for the government to develop impoverished rural communities.

Still, the peace plan is extremely controversial because it will allow FARC fighters accused of war crimes to avoid prison. Average Colombians will decide whether to accept or reject the peace treaty in an October 2 referendum. For NPR News, I'm John Otis in Bogota, Colombia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.