CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt renewed ceasefire with FARC dissident faction and resumed talks with ELN, with latter discussions focused on continuation of six-month ceasefire; confrontations between armed groups persisted. 

Govt renewed ceasefire with FARC dissident group. Providing important continuity for Petro’s “total peace” policy, govt and dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) 14 Jan agreed on six-month extension of bilateral ceasefire. During negotiations in capital Bogotá, parties reiterated commitments to protect civilians, release kidnapped persons and end kidnap-for-ransom, work toward environmental protection, increase community participation in talks and create joint agenda, though specifics remained unclear. In further positive step, govt and rebels 4 Jan inaugurated joint monitoring mechanism that will eventually have national as well as regional chapters, and is intended to receive information about possible ceasefire infractions and prevent or de-escalate clashes. 

Govt and ELN resumed talks but did not agree on six-month ceasefire renewal. Govt negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) 22 Jan resumed in Cuban capital Havana; group said it would end kidnappings if ceasefire is renewed, but conditioned on govt filling gap in financing that lack of ransom payments would incur for rebels; sides 29 Jan said they would extend bilateral ceasefire for seven days while they determine if and under what terms to continue truce for another six months. UN 11 Jan presented report to Security Council detailing 170 possible incidents of ceasefire violation from both sides since 30 Nov, though none officially adjudicated. Meanwhile, govt and country’s largest armed organisation, Gaitanista Self Defense Forces, 21 Jan expressed willingness to enter dialogue, though lack of mutual trust could hinder prospects for talks. 

Armed violence between rival groups continued in several regions. ELN and FARC dissident group Segunda Marquetalia 13 Jan announced alliance in Nariño department in apparent attempt to stem advance of FARC-EMC; fighting between these groups in south west displaced at least 3,000 people in first two weeks of Jan. ELN mid Jan clashed with Jaime Martínez faction of FARC-EMC on southern outskirts of Colombia’s largest port city, Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department, displacing and confining hundreds. Fighting between Gaitanistas and ELN in Chocó confined 9,000 families.

December 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt resumed peace talks with FARC dissident faction and ELN after Constitutional Court set limits on scope of President Petro’s “total peace” policy; confrontations between armed groups continued.

Govt negotiations with FARC dissident faction and ELN resumed. Petro administration and dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) 7 Dec returned to talks in Popayán town, Cauca department (Pacific Coast); dissidents had temporarily withdrawn from talks mid Nov to reconfigure negotiating team to favour military factions, 2 Dec appointed three temporary advisers to process including senior commanders, elevating level of delegation. Parties 12 Dec announced series of agreements, including FARC-EMC pledge to stop kidnappings for ransom and inauguration of joint monitoring mechanism for ceasefire; talks to resume 8 Jan in capital Bogotá, with ceasefire due to expire 20 Jan. Govt negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) 4 Dec also resumed in Mexico. Insurgents 17 Dec agreed to request from govt’s new peace commissioner Otty Patiño to stop kidnappings but suggested govt needs to fill gap in financing this would incur for rebels. Sides said they hope to extend ceasefire, due to expire end of Jan.

Constitutional Court upheld, with limits, govt’s “total peace” policy. Patiño 6 Dec began role amid new limits on govt’s overall strategy after Constitutional Court late Nov ruled executive could still decide which armed groups to engage with, but found that congress should pass legal framework setting terms for any eventual demobilisation agreement with criminal groups. In immediate term, decision may impact urban dialogue processes in cities of Buenaventura, Medellín and Quibdó, where Petro administration has secured truces between gangs. Govt can still advance conversations with country’s largest armed organisation, Gaitanista Self Defense Forces, but discussions about demobilisation or judicial guarantees must wait until congress approves legal framework.

Armed organisation sought to expand territory, clashing with FARC dissidents. Gaitanistas continued to expand in trafficking corridor that stretches from Bajo Cauca subregion of Antioquia department (north) to south of Bolívar department (north east), facing resistance from temporary ELN-FARC-EMC alliance; clashes between group and FARC dissidents displaced almost 1,000 people in Briceño municipality, Antioquia, late Nov-9 Dec.

November 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Peace talks with FARC dissident faction and ELN suffered setbacks, though ceasefires held.

Govt negotiations with FARC dissident faction suffered setback. Fallout from late Oct local elections rocked three-month bilateral ceasefire between govt and dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC). Parties had reached agreement for military presence in El Plateado town, Cauca department (Pacific coast), for election day but disagreed on when military would leave. FARC-EMC’s Carlos Patiño Front, dominant in El Plateado, 5 Nov pressured unarmed civilians to surround soldiers and force them to withdraw, which they did; FARC-EMC same day said it would pull out of negotiations for internal consultations but that bilateral ceasefire would remain. President Petro 7 Nov said pause in violence would only be upheld if dissidents returned to talks; group 17 Nov said it would return to talks with re-configured negotiating team; discussions due to restart early Dec.

Kidnappings strained negotiations with ELN. National Liberation Army (ELN) 2 Nov admitted to kidnapping Luis Manuel Díaz, father of Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz, in Barrancas municipality, La Guajira department (north), 28 Oct and his wife; police same day rescued wife but group held Luis Manuel until 9 Nov, sparking outrage over continued ELN abductions during ceasefire and talks with Petro administration. Govt 9 Nov issued statement urging ELN to stop kidnappings, which group 10 Nov rejected as “blackmail”. Govt 17 Nov announced delay in starting fifth round of talks after ELN failed to respond to govt lead negotiator Otty Patiño’s letter demanding meeting to discuss abductions. Amid public concerns over “total peace” policy, Petro 22 Nov replaced Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda with Patiño. Meanwhile, ELN 6 Nov declared 72-hour armed strike in parts of Chocó department (Pacific coast) where group is under significant pressure from Gaitanista Self Defence Forces.

In other important developments. Gunmen 12 Nov assassinated second place mayoral candidate in Toribío, Cauca; attack follows late-Oct local elections, which saw significant losses for Petro’s governing coalition and at least 77 protests or riots around voting stations and verification centres.

October 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt struck ceasefire agreement with FARC dissidents, marking further progress for President Petro’s “total peace” policy; armed and criminal violence persisted.

Govt secured ceasefire with FARC dissident faction. Petro administration 16 Oct agreed to three-month bilateral ceasefire with dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC), marking significant political win for govt. Agreement, which went into effect 17 Oct, included specific protocols protecting civilians and ensuring free conduct of local elections on 29 Oct; FARC-EMC had previously said it would not allow unfriendly candidates to run in its territory. While deal is national, sides agreed to define regions where FARC-EMC is present and concentrate implementation and monitoring there. Agreement also officially opened talks between govt and dissidents; negotiations aim to reach partial deals that can be implemented as political talks continue; sides agreed, for example, to undertake “transformation” projects aimed at improving conditions in priority areas, starting with Caño de Micay, Cauca department (south west), where some 1,800 civilians were recently displaced in confrontations between FARC-EMC and military. Meanwhile, govt-ELN negotiating table as of 10 Oct will function permanently in capital Bogotá to maintain progress on implementing agreements on participation, bilateral ceasefire and humanitarian relief.

Violence persisted in several regions. Despite diplomatic advances, clashes between armed and criminal groups continued. Notably, Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces clashed with ELN in attempt to dislodge guerrillas from gold mining areas in eastern Antioquia and southern Bolívar (north). FARC-EMC fought separate dissident faction Segunda Marquetalia in Telembí triangle area in Nariño department (Pacific Coast), displacing almost 500, according to early Oct UN report. Comandos de la Frontera criminal group 6-8 Oct held armed strike in Caquetá and Putumayo departments (south).

Governing party suffered setback at ballot box. Local elections 29 Oct dealt blow to Petro govt, with opposition candidates winning number of key seats, including in major cities and governorships. Authorities reported several incidents of vandalism and clashes between voters at polling centres, while eight candidates were murdered in months leading up to polls.

In another important development. Petro 31 Oct recalled ambassador to Israel over “massacre of the Palestinian people”.

September 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

“Total peace” policy advanced further as govt concluded fourth round of talks with ELN and announced expected start of formal dialogue with FARC dissidents.

Govt-ELN dialogue continued. 180-day ceasefire between National Liberation Army (ELN) and state security forces remained in place, as negotiators from group and govt 4 Sept concluded fourth round of talks in Venezuelan capital Caracas. Sides agreed to proceed with 25 regional consultations, though precise format remained unclear, and govt said it would improve conditions for ELN prisoners. Parties also agreed to undertake “dynamic humanitarian actions” in several areas of Chocó, Antioquia and Bolívar departments to improve conditions for conflict-affected communities.

FARC dissident faction agreed to formal dialogue with govt amid ongoing violence. Petro administration and dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) 19 Sept announced formal negotiations and 10-month bilateral ceasefire starting 8 Oct. FARC-EMC violence continued, however; notably, dissidents 14 Sept attacked military patrol in La Argentina municipality, Huila department (south west), wounding four soldiers; 16 Sept killed four soldiers during clashes in Cumbitara municipality, Nariño department (Pacific coast); and 29 Sept killed another soldier in El Plateado town, Cauca department (south west). In first two weeks of Sept, violence between ELN and FARC-EMC in Puerto Rondón town, Arauca department (north west), forcibly confined hundreds of families.

Authorities released long-awaited drug policy. Justice Ministry 10 Sept announced new drug policy, promising to help small-hold coca farmers transition to alternative livelihoods, improve public health responses to drug consumption, and target senior traffickers and money launderers. Some aspects of document, such as authorisation to eradicate crops planted after signing of policy, raised concerns among some that, in practice, current approach won’t change. Meanwhile, Petro 9 Sept proposed Latin American alliance to fight drug trafficking.

Campaigning for Oct elections continued. Campaigning for local elections in Oct continued amid concerns poll may escalate political tensions in conflict-affected regions as armed and criminal groups seek to assert influence. Unknown assailants, for example, 28 Sept assassinated former mayor of Caloto town, Cauca; his son is currently candidate for same position.

August 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt’s landmark ceasefire with National Liberation Army (ELN) took effect, marking important step forward in President Petro’s “total peace” efforts; govt announced negotiations with FARC dissidents will begin in Sept.

Bilateral ceasefire with ELN commenced. 180-day ceasefire between ELN and state security forces — longest bilateral ceasefire ever concluded with guerrilla group – 3 Aug got under way, marked by ceremony in capital Bogotá. Parties same day inaugurated public participation mechanism with 81 national delegates who are meant to organise several dozen regional consultations; purpose of consultations unclear. Govt and ELN negotiators 14 Aug began fourth round of talks in Venezuelan capital Caracas. Despite progress, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa 8 Aug alleged guerrillas planned to assassinate him, which ELN next day denied. UN Security Council 2 Aug expanded UN mission mandate to include monitoring of ELN ceasefire and expressed willingness to consider covering potential future agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents.

String of attacks by FARC dissident faction threatened progress toward talks. Petro administration 12 Aug announced it would begin formal peace negotiations with dissident FARC faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) on 17 Sept, likely in Caquetá department (south). Group launched series of attacks in Cauca department (west). Notably, FARC-EMC 12 Aug killed three police officers in Morales town; several car bombs 13 Aug killed police officer in Buenos Aires town; local Indigenous communities reported at least five assassinations 12-13 Aug; and attack 24 Aug on police station in Santander de Quilichao town wounded four. Attacks follow 1 Aug video circulated by group naming ceasefire with military as first priority in talks and saying it would not consider wider cessation of hostilities; Petro 14 Aug stated that govt would seek cessation of hostilities against civilian population before agreeing to ceasefire.

In other important developments. Official campaigning for Oct local elections began amid concerns poll may escalate political tensions in conflict-affected regions as armed and criminal groups seek to assert influence. Petro’s son, charged with money laundering, 3 Aug reportedly said some of these dubious funds financed president’s 2022 election campaign.

July 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt’s “total peace” policy advanced as ceasefire with ELN gradually took hold and is due to take full effect in August, lasting 180 days in longest bilateral ceasefire ever concluded with guerrilla group.

Bilateral ceasefire with National Liberation Army (ELN) advanced. Govt and ELN 6 July ordered their forces to end offensive activities as sides gradually implemented June ceasefire agreement, set to take full effect 3 Aug and then last for 180 days; if successful, agreement will be longest bilateral ceasefire ever concluded with guerrilla group. Parties 14-15 July released two documents detailing protocols and monitoring mechanisms for full ceasefire, though civil society and grassroots groups criticised lack of explicit civilian protections. In lead up to cessation of offensive activities, ELN conducted several operations that raised concerns about its interpretation of agreement: group 3 July kidnapped soldier and her two children in Arauca department (north west), releasing them four days later; ELN’s Western Front 4-13 July held armed strike in Chocó department (Pacific coast), limiting citizens’ movements and prohibiting shops from opening.

Petro administration agreed to open talks with FARC dissident faction. Govt 8 July agreed to formal peace negotiations with dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central. First stage of dialogue will aim to re-establish confidence after several months of communication breakdown, followed by official talks with 12 govt negotiators and six insurgents; attorney general 28 July lifted arrest warrants of militants who will form negotiating team. Govt did not renew ceasefires with several groups that ended 30 June, including Segunda Marquetalia dissident group and Sierra Nevada Self Defense Forces. Meanwhile, President Petro 23 July named former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, currently incarcerated in U.S., as a “gestor de paz”, a role that would allow him to serve as intermediary between govt and armed and criminal groups, notably Gulf Clan.

Oct local election cycle began. Individuals running for mayor, councillor or departmental legislator in Oct polls had to register candidacy by end of July. Official campaign begins in Aug amid concerns elections may escalate political tensions in conflict-affected regions as armed and criminal groups seek to assert influence, either by threatening or implicitly supporting candidates.

June 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

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.

May 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt attempts at dialogue with armed groups faced more obstacles as violence continued; governing coalition in Congress began to collapse.

Govt-ELN talks continued, peace efforts with FARC dissidents faced headwinds. Third round of talks between govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) began 2 May in Cuba’s capital Havana amid hope for ceasefire. ELN 15 May paused talks after President Petro 12 May questioned group’s political agenda, given its reliance on illicit economies; talks resumed 17 May, parties 25 May extended negotiations until 8 June. In other “total peace” efforts, dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor 16 May raised concerns about govt’s compliance with bilateral ceasefire, alleging military violations in Nariño department (Pacific coast) and along Venezuelan border. Petro 21 May partially suspended ceasefire with group in four southern and central departments following murder of four minors from Indigenous community in Putamayo department (south). In retaliation, FARC-EP Estado Mayor 27 May vowed to prevent candidates from campaigning in Oct local elections in territory it controls.

Confinement and other violence intended to establish social control continued. Communities in Nariño and Choco departments along Pacific Coast continued to experience confinement and displacement amid clashes among various armed groups. Indigenous community in Silvia, Cauca department, early May reported FARC dissidents forcibly closed schools and attempted to recruit children. In Sucre and Bolivar departments along Atlantic coast, teachers early May reported receiving threatening pamphlet from criminal group Gulf Clan, demanding portion of their salaries.

Petro hinted at approach toward drug policy reform. Petro 13 May elaborated on still-developing drug policy reform amid fall in price of coca, suggesting govt will expand crop substitution programs that began after 2016 peace agreement, seek agreements with coca-growing communities not included in programs and promote alternative uses for coca leaf plant.

Ruling coalition fractured. Govt mid-May lost congressional majority after U Party declared itself independent, fracturing Petro’s fragile governing coalition; local elections in Oct could limit scope for his political reform and “total peace” plans.

April 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Petro administration’s total peace policy saw progress and setbacks as govt and FARC dissident group geared up for negotiations in May and deadly attack on security forces complicated talks with ELN.

ELN-govt talks faced setbacks, outreach to FARC dissident group progressed. Efforts to advance peace with National Liberation Army (ELN) faced challenges following late March attack that killed nine soldiers. ELN 3 April issued pamphlet justifying attack and promising more strikes until sides agreed to ceasefire, 10 April left explosives and threatening pamphlets in five major cities, including capital Bogotá and Medellín (Antioquia department). New round of talks will begin 2 May in Cuba’s capital Havana. Govt outreach to dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as FARC-EP saw progress, with ceasefire monitoring mechanism 24 April activating and talks due to start mid-May. Dissidents mid-April released pamphlet alleging govt had violated ceasefire, however, raising doubts about agreement’s durability.

Gulf Clan claimed it held discussions with authorities, criminal groups clashed in Buenaventura. After govt suspended ceasefire with criminal group Gulf Clan in March, group 13 April released communiqué claiming it held discussions with govt in presence of foreign diplomats but that it rejects draft law, presented in Feb, intended to make judicial concessions in return for collective criminal demobilisation. Meanwhile, fragile truce in port city of Buenaventura (Valle de Cauca department) – considered early success of govt’s “total peace” policy – showed signs of strain early April. Two negotiators for Los Shotas criminal group, in talks with rival Los Espartanos, disappeared; clashes resumed early April, triggering displacement. Though peace commissioner’s office 11 April said it was working to calm tensions, incident raised concerns about sustainability of ceasefires between illegal armed groups.

Govt hosted international conference on Venezuela. President Petro 25 April hosted international conference in capital Bogotá on Venezuela, aimed at reigniting talks between Venezuelan govt and opposition (see Venezuela).

March 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Following dialogue with govt, National Liberation Army (ELN) killed nine soldiers in setback to talks, and Petro suspended ceasefire with Gulf Clan amid accusations it took advantage of miners’ protests to carry out attacks.

Weeks after concluding second round of talks with govt, ELN killed nine soldiers. Govt and ELN 10 March concluded second round of peace talks with announcement of new, six-point agenda. Points agreed upon include building participatory civic process, end to armed conflict, reparations for victims and structural reforms to reduce poverty. Document also outlined roles of guarantor states as well as observers, UN and Catholic Church. Next round of dialogue scheduled for mid-April in Cuba. However, govt 29 March reported that ELN had killed nine soldiers in Norte de Santander province; President Petro same day condemned violence while chief govt negotiator said priority at talks must now be to broker ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. Meanwhile, Petro 13 March announced govt’s readiness to begin negotiations with dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as FARC-EP; statement followed attorney general’s decision earlier that day to lift arrest warrants for 18 of 19 FARC-EP commanders, an action Petro had requested to facilitate talks.

Govt suspended ceasefire with Gulf Clan. Criminal group Gulf Clan 6 March announced it had hired lawyer to represent group in talks with govt. Yet mining strikes in north-western Antioquia and Córdoba departments complicated govt’s formal outreach plans. Small-scale miners 2 March went on strike and blocked roads in several municipalities. Situation quickly escalated amid accusations Gulf Clan had compelled rural residents to join protests, and then used those mobilisations as smokescreen for attacks. Gulf Clan 11 March issued pamphlet stating they “neither supported nor incentivised” strike, though another pamphlet dated 13 March demanded all local businesses and miners support strikes. Petro same day accused group of violating ceasefire, saying talks were therefore impossible, 19 March suspended ceasefire with Gulf Clan.

In other important developments. Petro 28 March announced govt will host international conference in capital Bogotá to support dialogue between “Venezuelan opposition, civil society […] and the Venezuelan government”.

February 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Petro administration’s “total peace” policy moved forward as fresh talks with ELN took place, but high levels of violence continued.

Authorities advanced peace efforts with two armed groups. Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) 13 Feb began second round of peace talks in Mexico City, focusing on ceasefire and humanitarian access to conflict-afflicted areas. Justice Minister Néstor Osuna 22 Feb joined negotiations to address ELN concerns about conditions of imprisoned members. Delegations 25 Feb said they are working on agenda to advance process. Talks between govt and FARC-EP, dissident faction of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), also progressed. Sides 8 Feb signed ceasefire protocols, which crucially provide for multiparty monitoring system including govt, military, FARC-EP, Catholic Church, Organization of American State’s mission in Colombia and local activists, though mechanism is not yet active. Top peace official Danilo Rueda 21 Feb said govt expects “dialogue phase” with FARC-EP to begin in “coming weeks”. Yet in apparent breach of ceasefire, front belonging to FARC-EP same day killed one soldier in Cauca department.

Govt proposed new legislation to facilitate talks with criminal groups. Following legal crisis in Jan over ceasefires and talks with criminal outfits, govt 15 Feb presented draft law to Congress intended to address dispute over legality of ceasefire and proposal to lift arrest warrants for criminal group negotiators. Law sets out possible conditions for large-scale criminal demobilisation, such as reduced prison terms and option for individuals to retain up to 6% of ill-gotten gains.

Civilians bore brunt of continued armed and criminal group violence. Confrontations among armed and criminal groups continued unabated along Pacific coast throughout Feb, hurting civilians. Notably, UN 3 Feb said over 2,100 people in Chocó department were forcibly confined amid armed group incursion in Alto Baudó municipality; 17 Feb reported multiple mass displacements 8-13 Feb along coast of Nariño department, where two rival FARC dissident fronts are battling for control. In Guaviare department, roughly 2,000 people continued to face movement restrictions amid recent arrival of FARC dissident faction Segunda Marquetalia in area under FARC-EP control.

January 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt’s ceasefire announcement with five armed and criminal groups faced legal and political headwinds, while violence continued at high levels.

ELN peace talks faced first challenge with govt’s ceasefire announcement. Though President Petro 31 Dec announced six-month bilateral ceasefire with five armed and criminal groups, including National Liberation Army (ELN), ELN 1 Jan denied agreeing to any deal; group commander Antonio Garcia 3 Jan said govt’s announcement amounted to “crisis” in negotiations. ELN and govt 17-21 Jan held emergency meeting in Venezuelan capital Caracas to address misunderstanding, 21 Jan said they had resolved crisis but had not agreed on any ceasefire. In interim, parties 17 Jan announced they would undertake mission in municipalities in Chocó department to observe humanitarian conditions in communities beleaguered by conflict between ELN and criminal group Gulf Clan.

Authorities faced legal hurdles to implement ceasefires with four other groups. Despite complications with ELN, govt 4 Jan insisted it had agreed to ceasefires with remaining four groups – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group calling itself FARC-EP, FARC dissident group Segunda Marquetalia and two post-paramilitary groups – and issued presidential decrees ordering cessation of operations against them; govt’s decree indicated that it considers FARC-EP insurgency with political goals, making group eligible for negotiations. However, attorney general’s office 13 Jan said it could not lift arrest warrants for other three groups, nor could ceasefire take place as these organisations are criminal outfits and lack political objectives. Legal crisis has meant military is effectively upholding ceasefire only with FARC-EP. Attorney General Francisco Barbosa 30 Jan said he met with Petro, who confirmed “there will be no political negotiations with drug trafficking organisations”; Barbosa confirmed that “Prosecutor’s Office accompanies the efforts in terms of peace with the ELN ... and even with the dissidences that did not sign the peace agreement”.

Violence continued apace. Amid lack of clarity around ceasefire arrangements, fighting between FARC-EP and ELN 10-12 Jan erupted in Arauca department, killing at least 11; FARC-EP accused military of working with ELN and said govt had therefore broken ceasefire, which Defence Minister Iván Velasquez 13 Jan denied. Meanwhile, military 11 Jan confirmed FARC dissident factions had kidnapped military sergeant in southern Cauca department; FARC dissidents 15 Jan kidnapped three soldiers in Nariño department, released them three days later.

December 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt and ELN concluded first round of peace talks; authorities along with several armed and criminal groups declared ceasefires amid high levels of violence.

Govt and ELN agreed to de-escalate conflict in 2023 as first round of dialogue ended. Peace talks between govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) 12 Dec concluded in Venezuelan capital Caracas, with second round announced for 2023 in Mexico. Sides agreed to resume 2016 peace agenda, ratified permanent observer roles of UN Mission and Catholic Church, and added Chile and Mexico as guarantor states. Delegations same day announced agreement to de-escalate conflict and improve humanitarian conditions in Medio San Juan region (Chocó department) and Bajo Calima village (Valle de Cauca department), both along Pacific coast, starting in 2023. Sides 3 Dec also agreed to facilitate safe return of hundreds of displaced members of indigenous Embera community to their homes in Alto de Andágueda region (Chocó).

End-of-year ceasefires announced amid high levels of violence. ELN’s Western Front Omar Gómez 13 Dec announced “armed strike” in Chocó and Valle de Cauca starting 15 Dec to combat “paramilitary” activity, likely referring to rival criminal group Gulf Clan. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents and ELN also clashed during first half of month, notably in Caldono municipality (Cauca department). In positive move, ELN 19 Dec announced unilateral ceasefire 24 Dec-2 Jan, 20 Dec ended strike; by 24 Dec, FARC dissident groups, including Segunda Marquetalia, and other armed and criminal groups had joined ceasefire. Govt 31 Dec also announced six-month bilateral ceasefire with ELN, Segunda Marquetalia, Estado Mayor Conjunto and two right-wing post paramilitary groups; groups had yet to comment on announcement by end of month. Meanwhile, ombudsman’s office 7 Dec said 2022 saw highest number of social leaders killed since 2016 peace accord.

In other important developments. President Petro and Ecuadorian President Lasso 14 Dec announced fresh efforts to combat border armed group activity. Petro 12 Dec signed decree freeing from prison some “front line” (Primera Linea) protesters from 2021 national strike as “gestores de paz”, designation for civilians who can help mediate with illegal armed groups.

November 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Authorities made progress with “Total Peace” plan as talks with ELN got under way; President Petro pledged greater cooperation with Venezuela during first official visit to Caracas.

Govt made strides in initiating “Total Peace” plan. President Petro 4 Nov signed legislation giving govt legal authority to: negotiate with armed groups and “criminal structures of high impact” (outfits with sustained capacity to carry out violence threatening civilians); suspend arrest warrants for individuals participating in dialogue; and gradually eliminate mandatory military service in favour of social service. Meanwhile, peace talks with National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas 21 Nov began in Venezuelan capital Caracas, group’s first negotiations with govt since 2019. ELN same day issued statement saying negotiating team “has the backing of the entire organisation” amid concerns around its decentralised structure, which has impeded past negotiations.

Localised armed and criminal violence rose, notably in Arauca and Valle de Cauca. In initial outreach to armed and criminal actors, govt requested demonstrations of good-will through reduction in violence against civilians; however, attacks and other types of violent control increased during month. Notably, brief calm in Arauca department shattered after Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident faction known as 28th Front 8 Nov released audio promising to kill 300 civilians, likely including social leaders, allegedly linked to rival group ELN. In port city of Buenaventura, Valle de Cauca department, clashes resumed early Nov between Los Shotas and Los Espartanos criminal groups, breaking 2 Oct truce and causing forced displacements and confinements. Meanwhile, Petro 5 Nov signed Colombia’s ratification of Escazú Agreement, intended to protect environmental activists, who have been heavily targeted during country’s armed conflict. Govt 28 Nov announced offensive against armed groups operating in border areas and called for collaboration from neighbours.

Petro visited Venezuela amid ongoing efforts to normalise relations. Petro met Venezuelan President Maduro 1 Nov for first official presidential visit to Caracas, during which they signed joint communiqué pledging cooperation in areas such as trade, border security, consular services and transport links; Colombian Senate 2 Nov unanimously approved bill to better regulate international transport of cargo and passengers between two countries, thereby improving commercial ties and reducing border insecurity.

October 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Govt announced formal negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) would start in Nov, while criminal outfits publicly expressed interest in peace talks; govt struck deal to advance rural reform.

Govt made progress toward initiating dialogue with armed and criminal actors. Amid President Petro’s ongoing efforts for dialogue with armed and criminal organisations as part of his “Total Peace” plan, govt 4 Oct announced it will begin formal negotiations with leftist guerrilla movement ELN in early Nov, with Venezuela serving as guarantor state. At least 22 armed and criminal groups have now publicly expressed interest in peace talks with govt. Most recently, former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) chief negotiator and leader of dissident Segunda Marquetalia faction Ivan Márquez 18 Oct released video saying his group was open to dialogue; Comandos de la Frontera, Márquez-allied dissident front along border with Ecuador, day prior also announced interest.

Govt struck deal securing land intended for conflict victims and farmers. Petro administration 8 Oct reached deal with country’s largest cattle association FEDEGAN to purchase 3mn hectares of land. Agreement is intended to help fulfil pledges made in 2016 peace accord between govt and FARC to redistribute land to victims of armed conflict, displaced persons and landless farmers, although details remain unclear.

Govt continued to seek stronger relations with Venezuela, but issues remain. Following re-opening of Colombia-Venezuela border late Sept, roughly 80 lawmakers from both countries’ legislatures 21 Oct met at shared border at Villa del Rosario, Norte de Santander department, to participate in “Binational Parliamentary Meeting” to consolidate bilateral relations. However, in visit to border region 17 Oct, Petro criticised continued transit of goods through informal roads despite opening of formal crossings; also asked Venezuelan President Maduro to return to Inter-American System of Human Rights, which Venezuela left in 2013, in order “to deepen democracy” and eliminate “political persecution”.

September 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Violence ran high as armed and criminal groups sought to expand territorial control ahead of “Total Peace” talks with authorities; border with Venezuela reopened after three-year closure.

Govt worked toward dialogue with armed groups. Govt pursued “Total Peace” plan aimed at reviving negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) and demobilising other armed groups. Notably, after high-level govt delegation visited Cuba in Aug to meet ELN negotiating team, Venezuela 13 Sept agreed to act as guarantor in possible forthcoming talks. ELN 5 Sept however raised questions about govt’s peace plan, saying it was wrong to consider talks with criminal organisations since they exercise violence for “profit and capital accumulation” rather than political objectives. Meanwhile, govt 28 Sept said at least ten armed groups, including Gulf Clan and two Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups, agreed to unilateral ceasefires.

Criminal and armed groups stepped up violent attacks over territorial control. Dramatic violence occurred across country, including in cities where delinquent and criminal organisations who have shown interest in peace talks operate. Notably, violence accelerated in Barranquilla city on Atlantic coast (north), key drug trafficking route where at least two criminal groups battle for territory, leaving six dead 12 Sept. Groups also launched attacks on security forces; notably, FARC dissidents 2 Sept killed seven police officers in Huila department (south). Land invasions increased during month in ten departments, with cases of poor farmers taking over private land; Ombudsman’s Office 22 Sept said most invasions were in response to expectations among communities that govt will redistribute land, though at least 13 cases have seen armed groups vying for territorial control. Partly in response to violence, govt 3 Sept established “unified command centres” in 65 municipalities to increase coordination between local authorities and security forces to maintain order and protect “social leaders, human rights defenders and peace signers”.

Shared border with Venezuela reopened after three-year closure. After govt restored diplomatic relations with Caracas late Aug, Colombia-Venezuela border 26 Sept reopened, paving way for better regional coordination to address proliferation of criminal groups.

August 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

New govt took steps to revive talks with ELN and other armed and criminal groups; Colombia and Venezuela restored diplomatic relations. President Petro 7 Aug took office, becoming first left-leaning president in country’s recent history. During inauguration speech, Petro promised to complete implementation of 2016 peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); also called on armed and criminal groups to lay down their weapons, referring to govt’s “Total Peace” plan aimed at reviving negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) and demobilising other armed groups. Following this appeal, Petro 11 Aug sent high-level delegation to Cuba, where ELN negotiating team has remained in exile since talks broke down in 2019. Govt’s negotiating commission 12 Aug said it would “recognise the legitimacy of the rebel negotiators” and reinstate protocols signed in 2016, including protections for negotiators and roles for guarantor states Norway and Cuba; commission added that ELN said it will take “necessary steps to restart talks”. Petro 19 Aug suspended arrest and extradition warrants of ELN negotiators; defence ministry 25 Aug announced govt will suspend aerial bombing of armed groups; Petro 27 Aug proposed multilateral ceasefire to armed groups throughout country; interior minister 30 Aug submitted bill to Congress laying out peace initiative to pave way for negotiations with armed groups. In ELN’s stronghold Arauca department (north east), group 12 Aug announced release of nine individuals held captive; 18 Aug released six military personnel. Criminal organisation Gulf Clan 7 Aug announced unilateral ceasefire, expressed “goodwill to take part in exploratory talks”. Govt 12 Aug announced new military and police leadership, sending around 50 generals into retirement; reaction from military, broadly sceptical of president, was muted. Meanwhile, in Cauca department (south west), unknown assailants 28 Aug killed three members of indigenous community in Caldono municipality; suspected FARC dissidents 31 Aug kidnapped at least five minors, killed another near Argelia town. After incoming administration and Venezuela late-July agreed to reestablish relations, Petro 28 Aug sent new ambassador, Armando Benedetti, to Caracas, reversing outgoing President Duque’s confrontational policy toward Venezuela; Venezuelan President Maduro same day sent former FM Félix Plasencia as Venezuela's representative in Bogotá.

July 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

President-elect Petro strengthened governing coalition and agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations with Venezuela, while Gulf Clan and other criminal organisations signalled willingness for talks. President-elect Petro throughout month worked to build broad coalition of political parties and figures ahead of his inauguration on 7 August. Notably, Petro 13, 19 July won support of Liberal party and Partido de la U, respectively, reaching historic majority in both chambers of congress. Meanwhile, incoming govt 28 July agreed with Venezuela to reestablish diplomatic relations. In joint declaration, Alvaro Leyva, designated FM under Petro, and Venezuelan FM Carlos Faria said both govts will appoint ambassadors to their respective capitals and work to strengthen security along their shared border. Incoming govt and criminal groups hinted at willingness for future negotiations. Petro 5 July told W Radio media outlet that his govt would work to achieve ceasefire with National Liberation Army (ELN) in order to resume peace talks and encourage dialogue with other armed groups. Gulf Clan and some smaller criminal organisations 21 July published open letter stating their willingness to negotiate ceasefire. In apparent bid by ELN to consolidate territorial control ahead of possible talks with govt, clashes between ELN and rival armed organisations increased in group’s major strongholds. Notably, clashes 9-14 July broke out between ELN and remnants of dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Fronts 10 and 28 in Tame municipality, Arauca department (north east); security forces 21 July clashed with ELN in Teorama municipality, Norte de Santander department (north east), leaving one soldier dead. Violence persisted elsewhere. Notably, unknown assailants 31 July shot dead five in La Union municipality, Valle del Cauca department; unknown gunmen same day killed four Indigenous people in Barbacoas municipality, Chocó department (along Pacific coast). Meanwhile, local media 2 July reported that former FARC chief negotiator and leader of Segunda Marquetalia dissident faction, Iván Márquez, had been wounded or killed in Venezuela; statements from Segunda Marquetalia 10 July indicated that Márquez had survived attack and remained in Venezuela. Defence Minister Diego Molano 15 July said security forces killed Iván Mordisco, leader of FARC’s former 1st Front, which never joined peace process.

June 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Despite tense electoral atmosphere, all parties recognised presidential victory of Gustavo Petro, paving way for peaceful transfer of power 7 August; Truth Commission published long awaited report on decades-long conflict. In second round of presidential elections held 19 June, left-leaning candidate and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro won with 50.4 per cent of vote, defeating populist and businessman Rodolfo Hernández; victory marks first time leftist candidate has won presidential elections in recent history. Hernández and former president Iván Duque immediately recognised result, paving way for peaceful transfer of power on 7 August. U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken and UN Sec Gen António Guterres 20 June welcomed “strength” of Colombian democracy. National Liberation Army same day signalled willingness to advance talks with incoming govt. Petro 22 June announced he had spoken with Venezuelan govt “to open the borders and restore the full exercise of human rights at the border”. Amid fears of violence and concern about possible Petro victory, military 19 June deployed 320,000 troops to polling stations and other key infrastructure on election day, 20,000 more than in previous elections; Ombudsman’s office same day said elections proceeded “normally” notwithstanding “isolated incidents against security forces” in Caquetá (south) and Norte de Santander (north east) departments. Petro 14 June issued open letter to security forces in bid to win support among rank-and-file, notably suggesting improvements to social benefits and promotion opportunities; largest associations of retired military officers rejected proposals. Head of army Gen Eduardo Zapateiro 28 June announced resignation. Authorities 10 June confirmed death of Ricardo Abel Ayala Orrego, alias Cabuyo, head of 36th Front of dissidences of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Antioquia department (north west), bringing number of dissident leaders killed in 2022 to five. Meanwhile, unknown assailants 27 June killed environmental leader and member of leftist coalition Pacto Histórico Juan David Ochoa in Granada municipality, Antioquia department (north west). Truth Commission 28 June published long-awaited report on conflict between authorities and FARC, said at least 450,664 people killed and 121,768 people disappeared between 1985-2018; recommended revised approach to drug policy, end to aerial fumigations that eradicate coca plants, and reforms to military.

May 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Amid tense atmosphere, first round of presidential vote held; electoral violence could rise ahead of second round scheduled for 19 June. Colombians 29 May headed to polls amid tense electoral atmosphere. Leftist candidate Gustavo Petro won 40.32% of vote, falling short of 50% required to prevent second round; conservative candidate Rodolfo Hernández, who received 28.15%, will face Petro in run-off on 19 June. Attorney General’s Office same day processed 105 reports of possible electoral crimes and other disturbances. During election day, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents detonated three explosive devices in Caquetá (south) and Guaviare (south east) departments; same day killed polling jury in rural area of Vista Hermosa municipality, Meta department (centre). Also on election day, clashes erupted between FARC dissidents and National Liberation Army (ELN) in Normandía village, Arauca department (north). Earlier in month, criminal organisation Gulf Clan 5 May declared four-day armed strike in response to extradition 4 May of leader Dario Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, to U.S. Group ordered residents in areas under its influence to stay inside and “cease all social, economic, educational and cultural activities”. Strike affected at least 178 municipalities across 11 departments of northern Colombia; major city centres such as Sincelejo and Montería effectively shut down, illustrating group’s widespread and largely uncontested presence. Govt responded slowly, sending additional troops to affected regions three days after strike began. Ministry of defence reported five security forces killed 4-8 May, civil society said three civilians were killed. Chocó department (along Pacific coast), was among worst affected areas during and after strike; UN 17 May reported at least 14,600 people under forced confinement in southern Chocó in early May. Meanwhile, transitional justice mechanisms suffered setbacks. Military’s appointee to Truth Commission 2 May resigned, alleging that forthcoming final report will be biased; credible sources indicated he may have been pressured by sections of security forces to resign. Otoniel’s extradition marked significant loss for process, as it cut short his testimony before Special Jurisdiction for Peace Court (established under 2016 peace deal between govt and FARC to handle cases deriving from conflict).

April 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Armed groups launched attacks on security forces, social leaders remained at risk, and supporters of left-wing presidential hopeful Gustavo Petro faced intimidation. Armed group violence targeting security forces continued. Notably, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents 8 April allegedly ambushed military vehicle in Ituango municipality, Antioquia department (north west), killing three soldiers; 13 April allegedly killed four soldiers during attack in Meta department (centre). National Liberation Army (ELN), along with FARC dissidents, 30 April allegedly launched attack on army in Norte de Santander department (north east), which left two civilians and two military injured. Members of criminal organisation Clan del Golfo 19 April reportedly bombed military vehicle in Frontino town, Antioquia, killing six soldiers. Army 29 April killed six suspected FARC dissidents in Puerto Rondon town, Arauca department (north). UN Human Rights Office 13 April urged govt to launch investigation into military operation in Putumayo department (south), which reportedly killed four civilians 28 March. According to civil society group Indepaz, six massacres (murder of three or more persons) took place across country 2-24 April, killing 22 in total; Indepaz 24 April said at least ten social leaders and six ex-FARC combatants killed during April. Earlier in month, International Red Cross 1 April designated six non-international armed conflicts in Colombia: three among armed groups and three between armed groups and state. Following reported irregularities during March legislative elections, National Registrar 12 April said more than one million votes not tallied in initial count, raising concerns about forthcoming presidential vote scheduled in May-June in case of disputed election. Election-related incidents targeted left-wing candidates. Namely, VP candidate Francia Marquez, front-runner of left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, 4 April declared far-right group Aguilas Negras threatened her three times during month; unknown group 15 April also attacked Bogotá office of Colombia Humana, one of parties supporting Petro. Meanwhile, International Court of Justice 21 April ruled Colombian activities in Nicaraguan marine zone violated Nicaraguan sovereignty and ordered Colombia to stop interfering in Nicaragua’s waters.

March 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Presidential primary and legislative elections saw strong results for party of left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro; rural violence, notably targeting activists, persisted. Legislative and presidential primary elections 13 March took place without major security incidents; National Liberation Army (ELN) largely upheld 10-15 March ceasefire it had announced 4 March. Polls elevated former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, presidential hopeful for left-leaning Historical Pact coalition with 4.5 mn votes in primary elections, as strong contender for May presidential polls; during primary, Federico Gutiérrez gained 2.1 mn votes, making him chosen candidate for right-wing Team for Colombia coalition, while 723,000 voters chose Sergio Fajardo as candidate for Center Hope coalition. In Senate, final tally, which was confirmed in late March, allocated Historical Pact 20 seats and Liberal and Conservative Parties 15 seats each. EU electoral mission 15 March reported evidence of vote-buying and candidate intimidation in run-up to polls, particularly in case of 16 newly created congressional seats for victims, where a number of traditional parties were accused by civil society observers of providing illegal financing to capture seats. Organization of American States 20 March called on electoral authorities to investigate alleged fraud. According to civil society group Indepaz, nine massacres (murder of three or more persons) took place across country 1-28 March, killing 36 in total; Indepaz 29 March said at least 15 social leaders killed during March, including indigenous leader José Miller Correa, who was found dead outside of Popayán town, Cauca department. Meanwhile, several other violent incidents reported during month. Notably, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents 26 March attacked police station in capital Bogotá using explosives, killing two children and injuring 39 persons. Army 28 March killed 11 members of FARC dissident faction Segunda Marquetalia during clash in Puerto Leguizamo municipality (Putumayo province); according to rights groups, four civilians were among those killed, including Quechua Governor Pablo Panduro.

February 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Attacks against security forces continued across country, notably along Pacific coast and Venezuelan border; some senior and retired military officials faced accusations of links with armed groups. Police and soldiers faced attacks throughout month, notably in Norte de Santander and Cauca departments, wounding dozens. In Meta department (south), motorcycle bomb 9 Feb exploded in front of Infantry Battalion N.21 “Batalla Pantano de Vargas” in Granada municipality, killing two; security forces killed 15 Clan del Golfo members during raid in Ituango municipality. In Pacific Coast, UN 2 Feb reported 18,000 forcibly confined in Nariño’s El Charco municipality; said another 20,000 later displaced and confined in Nariño’s Triángulo Telembí, fluvial area contested between competing factions of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents and local criminal groups. Armed men 15 Feb attacked convoy of Mayra Goana, candidate for Congress’ designated seats for victims, in Catatumbo region (east). Army 24 Feb launched military operation in Arauca department (north) killing at least 23 FARC dissidents. Violence along Venezuela-Colombia border ran high; Venezuelan security forces targeted Colombian criminal groups and FARC dissidents, 14 Feb and 20 Feb said Colombian criminal groups had planted explosives prompting them to deactivate landmines along border. Some senior military officials accused of links with armed groups. Notably, magazine Cambio 11 Feb reported General Jorge Hernando Herrera allied with criminal group Los Pocillos in combating FARC dissident front Carlos Patiño; Blu Radio 15 Feb revealed attorney general’s case against retired General Leonardo Alfonso Barrero who allegedly worked with La Cordillera, local franchise of Clan del Golfo post-paramilitary group in Northern Nariño (south). National Strike Committee and United Workers’ Union 9 Feb called for 3 March peaceful protests against govt; National Liberation Army 23-26 Feb conducted 72-hour “armed” strike against President Duque’s govt, which saw series of incidents notably in eastern Santander province where road explosion between Socorro and San Gil municipalities left eight people injured. According to civil society group Indepaz, six massacres (murder of three or more persons) took place across country 2-11 Feb, killing 18 in total; Indepaz 23 Feb said at least 12 social leaders killed during Feb.

January 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Violence rose across country, with numerous attacks on security forces and increased insecurity at border with Venezuela. Leftist guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident group of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) accused of launching attacks 27 Jan on security forces in Cesar, Norte de Santander, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Antioquia departments, leaving one military dead and dozens injured; armed men same day burnt two UN vehicles in Guaviare department (south east). In east, confrontations between ELN and dissident FARC’s 10th Front early Jan erupted in violation of previous non-aggression agreement. Violence rose over control of illegal economies, causing up to 50 deaths; Attorney General’s office 5 Jan reported recovering 27 corpses presumably linked to 10th Front in Fortul, Saravena and Arauquita municipalities in Arauca department and in Cubará municipality, Boyacá department. Clashes 10-14 Jan in Venezuela’s Apure region and Colombia’s Vichada department led President Duque 4 Jan to deploy two military brigades to Arauca, prompting mutual accusations from ELN and 10th Front of collaboration with military; Venezuela 16 Jan announced deployment of military at border with Colombia. Violence however persisted; car bomb attributed to 10th Front 19 Jan killed one and wounded five in Saravena city (Arauca). UN 18 Jan reported over 1,500 displaced by violence during month; UN Envoy to Colombia Carlos Ruiz Massieu 21 Jan asked UN Security Council to strengthen state presence at border with Venezuela. Meanwhile, violent attacks persisted elsewhere. Along Pacific coast in Valle del Cauca, ELN 7 Jan injured 13 members of police’s anti-riot unit in Cali city; FARC dissidents 24 Jan killed leader of National Indigenous Guard in Buenos Aires municipality; clashes between criminal organisation Clan del Golfo and ELN 28 Jan prompted mass displacement in Bajo Calima village. According to civil society group Indepaz 13 massacres (murder of three or more persons) took place across country 3-28 Jan, killing 39 in total; Indepaz 31 Jan said at least 14 social leaders killed during Jan. In lead-up to presidential elections set for May 2022, former Congresswoman and guerrilla hostage Ingrid Betancourt 18 Jan announced candidacy; presidential campaigns 29 Jan officially started.

December 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

FARC dissident faction suffered new setback in neighbouring Venezuela, and violence continued notably along Pacific coast. Two senior commanders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident faction Segunda Marquetalia, Henry Castellanos (alias Romaña) and Hernán Darío Velásquez (alias El Paisa), killed 5 Dec in Venezuela’s Apure state; local media including Colombian news outlet Caracol in following days said rival FARC dissident 10th Front suspected of carrying out attacks, though details remain unclear; killings strike symbolic blow to Segunda Marquetalia, which last May lost senior commander Jesús Santrich. In Norte de Santander department near Venezuelan border, bomb blasts 14 Dec killed two police officers at airport in Cúcuta city; one suspected suicide bomber also killed. Defence Minister Diego Molano immediately condemned “terrorist” act, said it bore hallmark of FARC dissident groups and National Liberation Army (ELN), though neither claimed responsibility. Also in Norte de Santander, suspected members of 33rd FARC Dissident Front early Dec clashed with other armed groups and 5 Dec reportedly threw grenade at voting station for election of municipal youth council in Tibú municipality, injuring three soldiers and two civilians. Meanwhile, fighting continued along Pacific coast. In Cauca department, FARC dissident faction Carlos Patiño Front 6 Dec announced armed strike in parts of Argelia municipality in attempt to cement territorial control, amid competition with Segunda Marquetalia and ELN for control of drug trafficking routes; 14 Dec lifted strike, but demanded change in military command in area. Indigenous communities from across Cauca 10 Dec marched to Cali, main city of Pacific coast, to protest rising levels of violence and lack of state response. Army 29 Dec said it had found corpses of seven men in rural area of Putumayo department (south), blamed FARC dissidents. Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz 2 Dec announced possible resumption of aerial fumigation of coca crops in Feb 2022; move follows National Environmental Licensing Agency’s approval of govt’s environmental impact plan for spraying, one of several pending conditions set in 2017 by Constitutional Court to restart aerial fumigation. Country’s Registrar 22 Dec released official list of candidates for presidential and congressional elections scheduled to begin 13 March.

November 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Violence continued along Pacific Coast, fuelling mass displacement and forced confinement. Fighting between rival local armed groups 6-7 Nov forced 173 families to flee port city of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department; UN 11 Nov reported others remained confined within their neighbourhoods. In Nariño department, fighting between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident factions 11 Nov displaced at least 110 people from Los Limones neighbourhood in Olaya Herrera municipality, while clashes between FARC dissidents and National Liberation Army (ELN) that week reportedly displaced 85 families from Indigenous reserves in Ricaurte municipality. Also in Nariño, thousands of coca growers late Oct-early Nov demonstrated for several days in a row to protest coca crop eradication programmes around Iscuandé municipality. Meanwhile, clashes between Gulf Clan, one of country’s main criminal organisations, and state forces reported in Antioquia and Chocó departments: suspected Gulf Clan members 7 Nov ambushed military unit near Ituango municipality, Antioquia, killing four soldiers, and 10 Nov reportedly killed two police officers in Bahia Solano municipality, Chocó. Armed clashes between state forces and FARC dissidents, notably Second Marquetalia and Carlos Patiño Front, also reported late Oct-early Nov around Argelia municipality in Cauca department. Special Jurisdiction for Peace (established under 2016 peace deal between govt and FARC to handle cases deriving from conflict) 5 Nov added indictment of “enslavement” in charges against former FARC commanders in case investigating practice of kidnapping; FARC leadership, which has accepted all other charges in case, including crimes against humanity, 7 Nov rejected enslavement charge. On fifth anniversary of peace agreement, U.S. State Dept 23 Nov announced intent to revoke designation of FARC as terrorist group, while UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 23-24 Nov visited Colombia, warned that “guaranteeing social leaders’ and ex-combatants’ security is vital to consolidate peace”. President Duque 25 Nov said Bogotá had received formal request from U.S. to extradite Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias Otoniel, leader of country’s largest criminal organisation who was detained in Oct.

October 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Authorities apprehended most wanted crime lord while rural violence persisted, particularly in key trafficking routes including Pacific coast, Bajo Cauca and Venezuelan border. Authorities 23 Oct arrested leader of country’s largest criminal organisation, alias Otoniel, in joint army, air force and police operation in Antioquia department; President Duque hailed capture as “biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century”. Fierce fighting involving armed groups and military sparked mass displacements along Pacific coast, including of over 230 people from indigenous reserve in Nariño department mid-Oct, and of over 400 in Cauca department around 20 Oct as military engaged in heavy fighting against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents and National Liberation Army. UN also reported inter-urban displacement accelerated in Oct in Buenaventura port city, Valle del Cauca department, due to armed group competition for territorial control. Social leaders in Antioquia and Córdoba departments throughout month reported increasing threats from Gulf Clan, one of country’s main criminal organisations, and other armed groups. Attacks on social leaders continued at high level. Notably, unidentified assailants 1 and 7 Oct killed three activists in Putumayo department; 6 Oct attacked teenage son of spokesperson of national coca growers’ union in Córdoba department. String of attacks on security forces late Sept-early Oct left several dead across country, including two police in Santander de Quilichao municipality, Cauca department, 9 Oct. Violence against former FARC members persisted with at least two killed in Cauca department week of 9-15 Oct. Govt 6 Oct said it deployed 14,000-strong military unit to Norte de Santander department near border with Venezuela; move came one day after Caracas reopened land border with Colombia after two-year closure. Constitutional Court 1 Oct extended mandate of Truth Commission, created by 2016 peace accord, for another nine months; Commission had been set to finish its work in Nov, but has yet to deliver its final report. International Criminal Court 28 Oct said it had shelved preliminary probe into crimes committed during Colombia’s nearly six-decade civil war, saying it would leave investigations to domestic institutions.

September 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Confrontations between armed actors and attacks against security forces and civilians ran high along border with Venezuela. In Norte de Santander department (north east), bomb attacks 8 Sept left two soldiers dead at Tibú’s airport, and next day killed woman and wounded several soldiers in department’s capital Cúcuta; confrontations between armed groups sparked mass displacement from Cúcuta’s Banco de Arena neighbourhood starting 11 Sept. Also in Norte de Santander, Gaitanista Drug Cartel (AGC) 11 Sept threatened social and union leaders who have organised local protests as part of national strike movement since April, including demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combatants. In nearby Arauca department, bomb attack by guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) 11 Sept left five soldiers dead. Conflicting reports emerged about abduction and alleged killing of colonel by FARC dissidents. Military 3 Sept claimed colonel abducted in April was killed by 10th Front of FARC dissidents in Venezuela; 28th Front of FARC dissidents 5 Sept released video of victim, accused military of making false claim to cover state’s failure to rescue him. Meanwhile in Chocó department (west), heavy fighting between ELN and AGC 13 Sept confined 250 to 300 families to their homes in Medio San Juan town. In Nariño department (south west), suspected FARC dissidents 26 Sept killed at least five in Tumaco area. Military next day said troops had killed at least ten FARC dissidents in Morichal Nuevo municipality, Guainia department (south east). NGO Peace and Reconciliation Foundation 8 Sept recorded six deaths in 29 violent incidents associated with campaigning for 2022 presidential and legislative elections 13 March-23 Aug, warned violence may increase as voting draws closer. Advocacy group Global Witness 13 Sept recorded 65 land and environmental defenders killed in Colombia in 2020, highest number worldwide. Meanwhile, lawmakers 7 Sept passed $4bn tax reform law, in final step of long-running efforts by President Duque’s govt to get fiscal reform through Congress; bill’s previous version had sparked deadly protests in April-June. On first anniversary of killing of civilian by police, hundreds 9 Sept took to streets in capital Bogotá to denounce police brutality.

August 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia

Amid implementation of 2016 peace deal’s justice provisions, court ruled case of former army chief charged in false positives scandal should remain with transitional justice tribunal. Attorney general 25 Aug accused former army commander Gen Mario Montoya of overseeing killings of 104 civilians in 2007-2008 as part of “false positives” scandal, during which soldiers murdered civilians and registered them as guerrilla fighters killed in combat; Bogota’s Superior Tribunal 30 Aug however refused to allow trial in ordinary courts, said Montoya is under jurisdiction of special transitional justice tribunal (JEP) created by 2016 peace accord between govt and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). President Duque 3 Aug ratified law creating 16 reserved seats in Congress for victims of decades-long civil conflict, as mandated in 2016 peace deal; seats will be up for election in forthcoming 2022 ballot. In first address to Truth and Reconciliation Commission, non-binding transitional justice body, former President Uribe 16 Aug said he did not recognise legitimacy of commission or any institution deriving from 2016 agreement; also denied responsibility in “false positives” scandal, arguing that while he had demanded strong results, soldiers had “tricked” him with body counts. Two former enemies during civil conflict, former top commander of right-wing paramilitary group Salvatore Mancuso, and former FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, 4 Aug appeared together before truth commission, apologised to victims for war atrocities. Govt 5 Aug said police had foiled attack by FARC dissident group Segunda Marquetalia in capital Bogotá, detaining two people and seizing explosives; police 4, 16 Aug said authorities had re-activated Interpol Red Notices for four Segunda Marquetalia members, including group’s leader Ivan Marquez, also requested latter’s extradition from Venezuela. Authorities 15 Aug killed Anderson Perlaza Caicedo (alias Borojó), alleged leader of FARC dissident group Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico in Tumaco town, Nariño department in south. Govt 19 Aug for first time extradited alleged members of National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group to U.S., with two of them due to appear before U.S. federal court on drug trafficking charges. Thousands of U.S.-bound migrants still stranded at month’s end in Necoclí town (Antioquia province).

July 2021

Latin America & Caribbean