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.
Bogotá and Caracas are back on cordial terms after a period of rancour. Their interests may not always align precisely in the years ahead. But with deft diplomacy, and help from neighbours, the two countries can nonetheless keep repairing their links to mutual benefit.
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.
Indigenous communities have suffered disproportionately from targeted violence, displacement and massacres throughout Colombia’s conflict.
From a humanitarian, security and economic perspective the closure of the border [between Colombia and Venezuela] has been a disaster. It’s pushed migrants in the directi...
[The] strategy of fear, hate and stigmatization towards the left [in Colombia] no longer works as a policy to win voters.
The main [concern for voters in Colombia] is just sort of bread and butter economic issues, access to education, services... inequality.
The security strategy [of the Colombian government] of focusing on high profile targets does not guarantee security for civilians.
Coca is really just the currency of Colombia’s ongoing conflict.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to experts Beth Dickinson and Renata Segura about Colombia’s presidential election, as the country heads into a run-off between two anti-establishment candidates: leftist Gustavo Petro and a millionaire often likened to Donald Trump, Rodolfo Hernández.
Colombians head to the polls on 29 May for the first round of a presidential contest that will starkly pose left against right. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson lays out the stakes for the country’s future stability.
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