MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to take a moment now to update you on an unexpected development out of Colombia where voters have been going to the polls today to decide whether to approve a recent peace deal hashed out between the Colombian government and a rebel group known as FARC that would end more than 50 years of conflict. In a razor-thin vote, Colombians voted to oppose the peace agreement. Reporter John Otis is with us now from Bogota. And I need to apologize in advance for the quality of the phone line. The weather is very heavy there, and it is affecting the quality of our telephone line. Hi, John. Thanks for joining us.
JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Thanks very much.
MARTIN: So you've been watching the election all day. When did it become clear that the agreement was in trouble?
OTIS: Well, almost immediately when the votes started coming in, it was very tight, and it remained very tight, but with the no vote slowly moving its way up. And in the end the no vote topped the yes vote by less than one percentage point. And that just shows how polarized this country is over this peace agreement. What happens is that many, many Colombians were angry about provisions in this peace accord that would have allowed the guerrillas accused of war crimes such as kidnappings and massacres. They would have - it would have - they would have been able to get out of going to prison. There wasn't much punishment for the rebels, and that really struck people the wrong way.
MARTIN: As I understand it, though, the opinion polls going into the vote had predicted that the yes side would win overwhelmingly. Do we have any sense of what happened? Some are suggesting that the heavy rainfall which is affecting, you know, our conversation caused by Hurricane Matthew was a factor there, that there are areas where the vote was suppressed because - or was rather low just because heavy rainfall made it difficult for people to vote. What are you hearing?
OTIS: That very much may have been part of the story here. Heavy rains probably caused by the hurricane hit the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia. That area was supposedly going to vote heavily in favor of the peace accord. That didn't happen. And, you know, another problem is that it's hard to get people to turn out to vote for referendums and plebiscites. It's much easier during presidential elections. People get all worked up for that. But for a plebiscite, it's hard to motivate voters, even though this is a historic vote. It was to try to end this war that's been going on since the 1960s. So it really is a big, big shock that this went down to defeat.
MARTIN: What happens now? I think many people will recall that President Juan Manuel Santos had already signed the agreement before an audience that even included the U.N. secretary general. What happens now?
OTIS: That's a huge question mark. We're expecting President Santos to address the nation in about a half an hour. You know, there's 6,000 rebels out there in the mountains, in the jungles waiting to disarm, waiting to hand over their weapons to a U.N. commission that's already here on the ground. You know, it's a shame that that couldn't take place. But, you know, things are really up in the air right now. There's some speculation that perhaps this peace treaty could be ratified by Congress to kind of do an end around of the will of the voters, but that would be politically risky for President Santos. And we're just going to have to wait to see what he says.
MARTIN: And, finally, we only have half a second - half a minute here left, John. Have we heard from the FARC group? Have we heard from the rebel side about their reaction to the vote?
OTIS: We have not. They've been watching the vote very closely from Havana, Cuba, where the negotiations have been going on for the past four years. The two sides have been hammering at this for a long time. They haven't said anything yet. I think they're still waiting for President Santos to say something.
MARTIN: Thank you. That's Reporter John Otis in Bogota. John, thank you.
OTIS: Thanks so much.
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