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.
Organised crime has infiltrated the Amazon basin, seeking land for growing coca, rivers for drug trafficking and veins of gold underground. These groups are endangering the rainforest and the safety of those attempting to defend it. It is imperative that regional governments take protective measures.
Govt-ELN talks faced setback following ceasefire renewal; violence remained high across countryside.
Govt-ELN talks faced challenges despite ceasefire renewal. After challenging discussions in Cuban capital Havana, govt and guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) 5 Feb announced extension of bilateral ceasefire for further six months. Agreement includes unilateral commitment from ELN to end kidnapping for ransom and to release all those detained. Days later, however, group’s western front 10 Feb launched armed strike in Chocó department along San Juan, Sipí and Cajón rivers in order to block advance by rival armed group Gaitanista Self Defense Forces. New crisis erupted 20 Feb when ELN recalled its negotiators for consultations, accusing govt of trying to undermine national talks by sponsoring regional dialogue initiative in Nariño department; ELN’s central command objects to involvement of local ELN front in a regional process, as it undermines group’s coherency at national dialogue. Sides 26 Feb reaffirmed commitment to continue negotiations despite disagreement.
“Total peace” efforts with FARC dissidents and other groups continued. Govt 1 Feb signed agreement to open talks with dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction called Segunda Marquetalia. Separately, tensions mounted between govt and second dissident faction already in talks, known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC); FARC-EMC 15 Feb issued communiqué accusing security forces of advancing on its troops in Buenos Aires town, Cauca department (along Pacific coast). Meanwhile, two criminal groups in Buenaventura city 5 Feb extended truce; agreement includes crucial provision allowing for creation of monitoring mechanism.
Gaitanistas clashed with army. Violence intensified mid-Feb between Gaitanista Self Defence forces and military, which is escalating pressure campaign against group. Clashes 16-17 Feb left five soldiers dead along border between Antioquia and Bolívar departments. President Petro 17 Feb issued ultimatum to group, saying security forces would dismantle it if forces are not willing to demobilise.
Petro faced criticism for slow implementation of coca substitution programs. Major civil society and farmer’s organisations from Catatumbo region, home to some of Colombia’s highest density coca crops, 11 Feb sent letter to Petro urging his administration to accelerate coca substitution programs; protests likely if there is no govt response.
The trend of violence against ex-combatants [in Colombia] is a strong deterrent to disarmament.
Violence in Colombia has long come from combats between illegal groups, and from the pressure they exert on civilians.
State presence [in Panama] overly focuses on border control and does not prioritise the protection of migrants.
The ELN [in Colombia] has made very clear they have no intention of ceasing their economic activities which includes kidnapping.
By the time the Colombian state signed a peace accord with the former FARC rebels [in 2016], kidnapping nearly disappeared … But in recent years that trend has reversed.
None of the armed groups [in Colombia] will give up anything significant unless they are under military pressure.
In this video, personal narratives from migrants, smugglers, and locals shed light on the perilous journey through the Darién Gap, a treacherous migration route between Central and South America marked by criminal control.
Migrants from far and wide are trekking northward through the Darién Gap, a dense jungle where they face dangers including criminal predation. Steps to improve law enforcement, ease crises in countries of origin and provide more humanitarian aid would push policy in the right direction.
Despite peace talks between the government and armed groups, levels of violence in Colombia remain high. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group outlines how the EU can promote negotiations and encourage inclusiveness therein.
The Darién – a patch of dense jungle on the strip of land connecting Colombia and Panama – is one of the most treacherous routes in the Americas. In this multimedia commentary, Bram Ebus follows the journey of Yeimy, a Venezuelan migrant, and her sons.
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.
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.
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.
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