International desk – Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said peace with the Farc rebel group will boost economic growth and enable the country to rebuild its social fabric.
“War is always more costly than peace,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, will sign a historic peace deal later on Monday.
But it will take a long time for Colombian society to recover from more than five decades of conflict, he said.
The Farc 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 per cent and 3 per cent more per year for the past 23 years,” Santos told the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, 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.
Colombia’s peace deal makes history in many ways, most of all for ending the last of the Cold War conflicts. But it also breaks new ground in trying to balance the desire for peace with the demands of justice which bedevil all peace talks.
There’s no amnesty, unlike all previous peace accords in the region. The Farc, as well as Colombia’s security forces, have accepted special tribunals and a truth and reconciliation process.
Many of the victims of the Farc’s brutality have been brought into the process. If polls are to be believed, a majority will vote to accept this deal. But I kept meeting people in Bogota and Cartagena who said they’ll vote no.
Fifty years of war also means decades of hatred and mistrust. Many doubt that the Farc will give up all its lucrative criminal activities. Will this deal also make history in being a peace deal which doesn’t fall apart?
The peace agreement was sealed after nearly four years of talks, which were held in the Cuban capital, Havana.
“The signature of the deal is simply the end of the conflict. Then the hard work starts: reconstructing our country,” he said.
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.
Santos said the deal with the Farc was fair and that it made those who committed war crimes accountable.
The rebels have agreed to lay down their weapons in a process that will be verified by the United Nations.