Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday Oct. 7 was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending 52 years of civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Only five other Latin Americans previously have won the Peace Prize throughout its history of more than a century.
“The Colombian people and especially the victims, is something for us very important and I receive this award in their name; the Colombian people who have suffered so much with this war, 52 years of war,” Santos said after winning the Prize.
Efe news agency reported a press release from the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that Santos had been chosen for the award despite the rejection of the FARC peace treaty in a public referendum.
“The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead,” the statement said.
It detailed that at least 20,000 people had died in a civil war that had also displaced close to 6 million people from their homes and the award should therefore be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who had not lost hope for peace.
The committee statement added however that the referendum result put the future of the ceasefire deal, struck between President Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, at risk of collapse, which would possibly lead to a reflaring of the war.
A total of 50.2 percent of voters rejected the peace treaty in a referendum on Oct. 3.
Londoño, also known as Timochenko, was expected to win the Prize jointly with Santos, but the referendum result may have changed the Nobel committee’s mind.
“The only prize we hope for is peace with social justice for Colombia without paramilitaries, retaliations or lies,” he tweeted when Santos was declared winner.
By awarding Santos with the Peace Prize the committee hoped to encourage a continued pursuit for peace in the country, and that Colombians would “reap the fruit” of the reconciliation process.
It added that a peace deal to end the civil war would then allow the country to properly address other pressing issues such as social injustice, poverty and drug crime.
“We just need to push a bit further, to persevere, and this is going to be a great stimulus to reach that end, and to start the construction of peace in Columbia,” Santos told the committee after winning.
The rural-based Marxist guerrilla FARC group have been fighting a civil war for half a century in Colombia, aiming to establish a socialist state in Colombia through armed revolution.