Colombian government peace deal with FARC rebel group will boost economic growth and enable the country to rebuild its social fabric, President Juan Manuel Santos said as he was ready to sign historical accord with guerillas leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko later on Monday."War is always more costly than peace,"
Santos said in an interview with the BBC
But it will take a long time for Colombian society to recover from more than five decades of conflict, he said.
The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) will be relaunched as a political party as part of the deal, which is due to be put to Colombian voters in a popular vote on 2 October."We could have grown between 2% and 3% more per year for the past 23 years,"
Santos said, adding that the conflict had also had a profound impact on Colombian society."We have even lost our compassion, which is the ability to feel some kind of pain for others… A country at war for 50 years is a country that has destroyed many of its values,"
said President Santos."The signature of the deal is simply the end of the conflict. Then the hard work starts: reconstructing our country,"
President Santos said he was "very, very confident" that most Colombians would vote in favour of the deal."The latest polls say that between 65% and 70% of the people approve of the peace process,"
he said"Peace is the victory for everybody."
The Colombian president said that if the agreement was to be rejected in the popular vote, the conflict would start again."We will go back six years and continue the war with the FARC. That's plan B,"
now has 180 days to disarm and move its estimated 7,500 fighters into disarmament zones set up by the UN. An amnesty will be granted for "political crimes"
but this does not cover massacres, torture or rape.
Colombia's second largest rebel group, the ELN (National Liberation Army), announced on Sunday a unilateral ceasefire until the referendum. ELN leaders have publicly expressed their wish to engage in their own peace process with the Colombian government.
President Santos, FARC leaders and heads of state from around the world, have been arriving in the historic port city of Cartagena for the signature of the peace accord on Monday evening.
If the agreement is approved in next Sunday's popular vote, the FARC will become a political party and join the legal political process from next year."Nobody likes the Farc. They've committed atrocities,"
Santos told the BBC."But when you vote yes, they will disappear. They will cease to exist as a dark group."