New Colombia president to amend peace deal

Colombia’s youngest elected president, Ivan Duque, has been sworn into office in Bogota.Colombia’s youngest elected president has been sworn in, promising to “make corrections” to a peace deal with leftist rebels that has divided the South American country.

Ivan Duque, the 42-year-old protege of a powerful right-wing former president, faces the task of implementing the historic accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended a half century bloody conflict, but which remains on shaky ground.

He will also have to deal with burgeoning coca and cocaine production that has strained relations with key ally Washington and negotiate a peace with a holdout guerilla army.

“The moment has come for all of us to unite to fight against illegal groups,” Duque said in his inauguration speech to more than a dozen heads of state in Bogota.

The new president said he believed in “the demobilisation, disarmament and reinsertion of the guerilla base” into society under the accord with the FARC.

But he added that “we will make corrections to ensure that the victims receive truth, proportional justice, reparations and not a repetition” after a conflict that left at least 260,000 dead, some 60,000 missing and millions displaced.

In another nod to conservatives, Duque said he will push for a constitutional reform that makes it impossible for the government to grant amnesty to individuals who have been involved in drug trafficking and kidnappings.

Duque will have to lead peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), a guerilla army of some 2000 fighters that began talks with predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos.

“We have to construct a culture that respects the rule of law,” he said.

Duque’s detractors fear he will be little more than a puppet for Alvaro Uribe, the ex-president who led a referendum defeat of the initial version of a peace accord with the FARC rebels.

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