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FARC Rebels Reject Plebiscite Proposal to Finalize Colombian Peace Deal

Top Story — Colombian rebel group FARC rejected proposed legislation on Monday that would put a final peace agreement with the government up for popular vote, stalling progress in the peace negotiations in Havana ahead of an agreed-upon March 23 deadline to conclude talks.

Members of the Colombian government and the guerrilla group have debated the terms of a peace agreement for the past three years, hoping to end the country’s 51-year civil war, which has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced millions. The two groups have established the March 23 deadline to reach a final peace plan, but friction continues over how exactly the Colombian population should weigh in.

The congressional proposal, which President Juan Manuel Santos and his government endorse, would create a plebiscite for the agreement’s final approval. FARC rebels are pushing instead for a national constituent assembly to mediate the final voting process, with both sides deciding on voting terms at the peace talks. The government rejects the idea of a constituent assembly, and expects that Congress will ratify the plebiscite legislation by Dec. 16 in spite of disapproval from the FARC.

While prior disagreements between both parties have reached resolution through the peace talks, the process has met recurring obstacles over the past three years, fueled by continued violence and ideological differences.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

North America

In a Monday speech that came five days after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled the prohibition of marijuana use unconstitutional, President Enrique Peña Nieto said that he personally opposes the eventual legalization of marijuana, but would be open to a debate on the question.

During an immigration reform summit in Las Vegas, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced that if elected president, he would provide immunity from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years.

Sanders’ announcement comes the same day as a Washington Post report revealed that the U.S. government has spent over ten years and $1 billion attempting to digitize immigration forms, and yet only one of the 95 forms is currently available online.

At least 10 people were killed and another seven injured in a Monday shootout during a cockfighting event in Mexico’s Guerrero state. There are conflicting accounts of who initiated the violence.

Caribbean

The United States and Cuba initiated their first formal talks regarding cooperative law enforcement efforts at the State Department on Monday, discussing issues like fugitives and information sharing.

Two of Haiti’s presidential candidates, Dr. Maryse Narcisse and Vilaire Cluny Duroseau, have filed legal challenges alleging that they were cheated out of votes during elections on Oct. 25. Narcisse will have a hearing before the Departmental Bureau of Electoral Contestation today.

During speeches and debates, U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz often tells his father’s story of being a revolutionary rebel in Cuba, but The New York Times is reporting that the story is hyperbolic and inaccurate, according to some of the elder Cruz’s Cuban peers.

Central America

Costa Rica filed a criminal complaint against the alleged unlawful marriage of two women in July —the first time the government formally acknowledged a same-sex union— because of a clerical error in which the registry had mistakenly listed one of the women as a man.

Andes

Colombia’s ELN rebel group confirmed that two soldiers captured last month in the central province of Boyacá are alive by allowing the captives to speak on the ELN’s clandestine radio station.

Over 500 kilograms of cocaine bound for Santiago, Chile, were seized on two buses carrying unsuspecting Colombian soccer fans on their way a World Cup qualifying match.

Southern Cone

Twenty-five people remain missing after two dams burst at a mine in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state on Thursday, flooding a village in the southeastern state and endangering the water supply of larger towns downstream. The incident has caused the suspension of Brazilian company Samarco’s mining license.

Argentine officials confirmed on Monday that the fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was in fact not hiding along its border with Chile, a claim instigated by a tip that set the country into high alert on Friday.

The U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil has gained a 35 percent stake, along with French company Total, to drill for offshore oil along Uruguay’s coast, the country’s first offshore exploratory well.

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