After the surprising, if narrow, referendum victory of the “No” campaign, the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s decision to give this coveted prize to President Santos pushed the debate about peace into full swing again. This is probably what the committee intended. Moreover, the committee showed clearly that ending Colombia’s 50-year-old civil war is a matter of international relevance, and not one of petty domestic party politics.
Some Colombian media outlets argue that the committee might have not opted for Santos, had “Yes” prevailed in the referendum. They read the decision as an attempt to mobilise the international community and ensure that the peace process goes on.
Most Colombian newspapers consider the prize an enormous back-up for the peace efforts. It took Santos a lot of courage to make the attempt to start talks with the guerrilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) with the intention to stop the war. After many years of difficult negotiations, he was even able to sign a peace accord.
Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, the FARC leaders who signed the peace deal, commented on the Nobel decision too. In his eyes, the “biggest prize which Colombia can win is peace”. He added that the country also needs “social justice.”
Álvaro Uribe, the former president who was at the forefront of the “No” campaign, congratulated Santos, but also said that he hoped the president now “change the peace accord which will damage democracy.” Others, however, argue that democracy can only be built on peace and that Colombia could not be called a democratic country during the civil war.
Rigoberta Menchú, the activist from Guatemala who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, also congratulated Santos. In her eyes, there is “now no way back” from the peace deal anymore.
President Juan Manuel Santos, in a humble and honest gesture, dedicated the prize to his fellow citizens: “Colombians, the prize is yours!” He pledged to donate the prize money to institutions that support war victims. The big question, however, is now whether Colombians will support his efforts to build a lasting peace.