In November 2016, the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war, yet peace remains elusive as new armed groups have stepped in to compete for territory and illicit businesses. To defend the gains of the peace process and stop a new cycle of conflict from taking hold, the state must redress the inequality underlying social discontent, make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN, and design security strategies that put protecting people first. Crisis Group has worked on Colombia’s conflicts since 2002, publishing over 40 reports and briefings and meeting hundreds of times with all parties in support of inclusive peace efforts. We monitor the FARC deal’s progress and carry out field research on issues ranging from new patterns of armed conflict to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
The new Colombian government has resolved to curb violence throughout rural areas where guerrillas and criminals hold sway. Its approach – dialogue and security reform – is admirable but risky. Any deal it strikes should seek to halt all the types of coercion the illicit groups employ.
Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) signed ceasefire agreement, FARC dissident violence persisted, and political scandal rocked Petro’s administration.
Govt and ELN struck ceasefire agreement. Govt and ELN negotiators 9 June announced ceasefire agreement, which will take hold gradually over two-month period and then last for 180 days, with 3 Aug intended start date. Sides will discuss accord with respective forces until 6 July, and then conduct further bilateral talks to clarify ceasefire conditions until Aug implementation. Protocols announced so far include commitments to uphold humanitarian law, end offensive and intelligence operations on both sides, and ban attempts to demobilise ELN. Agreement marked important advance in President Petro’s “total peace” efforts and, if successful, will be longest bilateral ceasefire ever concluded with guerrilla group. Deal remains fragile, however, with disputes emerging around prohibitions on kidnapping and extortion.
Armed group violence continued to plague communities. Joint military and indigenous guard team 9 June found four children lost for 40 days in jungle following plane crash; reports suggested children were fleeing forced recruitment by dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor, though group 14 June denied allegation. Estado Mayor stepped up intimidation of political leaders ahead of Oct local elections, 18 June releasing pamphlet threatening mayor of Tulúa, Valle de Cauca department (west); issue raised concern about freedom of campaign for local election, which formally began 29 June. Meanwhile, clashes between ELN and Gulf Clan starting early June displaced well over 100 families and confined 800 more in Chocó department (north west).
Petro removed two key allies embroiled in political scandal. President Petro 2 June removed two of his closest allies, Ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti and Chief of Staff Laura Sarabia, from govt after right-wing magazine Semana published reports accusing both of ordering illegal polygraph of domestic worker and wiretapping; in days following, leaked audio messages appeared to show Benedetti discussing irregular financing during presidential campaign. Crisis galvanised opposition to govt and will likely weaken its support in congress, which 5 June halted debates of proposed social reforms to allow investigation into allegations. Benedetti was reinstated as ambassador 23 June until 19 July.
None of the armed groups [in Colombia] will give up anything significant unless they are under military pressure.
Indigenous communities have suffered disproportionately from targeted violence, displacement and massacres throughout Colombia’s conflict.
El evento explora los principios de la "paz total" y explica el papel de la comunidad internacional para ayudar a Colombia a abordar la violencia que afecta a la sociedad.
After a three-year diplomatic conflict between Colombia and Venezuela, Bogotá and Caracas are now resuming relations. Starting in 2019, this timeline presents the events that led to the rupture and the significant steps taken toward rebuilding ties between the two states.
As part of his commitment to bringing “total peace” to Colombia, President Gustavo Petro has inaugurated new talks with the country’s last leftist insurgency. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson explains why this round of negotiations could differ from failed past attempts.
Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, says he will work to bring “total peace” to the countryside, including areas roiled by violent competition among criminal and other armed groups. This task will require significant changes to military approaches devised for fighting the insurgencies of the past.
Launch event of Crisis Group’s report Trapped in Conflict: Reforming Military Strategy to Save Lives in Colombia, based on extensive fieldwork in different regions of Colombia and dozens of interviews with the military and communities. It was held in Bogotá on Tuesday 27 September 2022 at 8:30 am. In the report, Crisis Group analyses why military strategy in Colombia’s rural areas has failed to contain the conflicts that arose following the 2016 peace accord with its largest guerrilla movement (FARC). Crisis Group also proposes new civilian government leaders to prioritise community protection in rural areas and embrace new indicators for gauging the military’s success. The panel was composed of Martha Maya, Latin America Program Director at the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFI), Elizabeth Dickinson, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Colombia, and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group's Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Alberto Lara Losada couldn't attend.
Crisis Group experts talk in this Twitter Space about what can be done to better protect Venezuelan migrants fleeing to Colombia from exploitation by criminal armed groups. The discussion was hosted by Bram Ebus, consultant for Latin America, Mariano de Alba, our senior advocacy advisor for Latin America and Glaeldys González, Giustra fellow for Latin America.
In recent years, Venezuelans have streamed into Colombia looking for work and respite from their country’s socio-economic meltdown. But dangers also await them, including the clutches of organised crime. Bogotá’s change of government is a chance to reset policy to keep the migrants safer.
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