In November 2016 the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war. To consolidate this achievement, the state must redress the inequalities that sustained that conflict as well as make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN. 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 ELN talks to drug trafficking to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
Murders of Colombian grassroots activists are increasing at an alarming rate. The killers seek to sabotage the country’s 2016 peace agreement and the rural economic reform it promised. Bogotá should step up prosecution of these crimes while pushing to improve social conditions in the countryside.
Police brutality sparked deadly unrest, while violence in rural areas continued to take high toll on civilians. After video emerged of excessive use of force by police against taxi driver during his arrest night of 8-9 Sept, large protests 9 Sept erupted in capital Bogotá and other cities; protesters set at least 22 police stations on fire across country and police fired live ammunition, leaving at least 13 dead in and around Bogotá 9-10 Sept. High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos 14 Sept alleged National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) groups coordinated violence, while attorney general 18 Sept said govt had captured four members of FARC dissident cell in Bogotá. Following calls by National Strike Committee, which coordinated late 2019 protest movement, thousands 21 Sept took to streets in several cities to protest dire economic situation and poor living conditions. Supreme Court 22 Sept ruled in favour of citizen petition requiring govt to guarantee right of peaceful protest; govt next day said it would ask Constitutional Court to re-evaluate decision. Large-scale killings (with three or more victims) of civilians continued, leaving at least 12 dead in Bajo Cauca area of Antioquia and Córdoba departments (north west) where Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, one of country’s main drug trafficking groups) and AGC splinter group Caparros fight for control of mining rights and drug trafficking routes, and ELN and FARC dissident factions also operate. Several massacres also recorded in Sept in Cauca and Nariño departments along Pacific coast, leaving at least 17 dead. In Alto Baudó municipality, Chocó (west), fighting between AGC and ELN 25 Aug-17 Sept displaced some 450 people and confined over 4,000 members of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities to homes. In testimony to Special Jurisdiction for Peace (established by govt-FARC peace deal), FARC party chief Rodrigo Londoño 9 Sept said forced recruitment was not FARC policy during civil war, sparking criticism from other political parties; FARC 15 Sept issued statement describing kidnappings as “grave error”.
Geography, economics and migration patterns dictate that Colombia and Venezuela, which severed diplomatic ties in 2019, will confront the coronavirus pandemic together. The two countries should temporarily mend their relations, and the Venezuelan factions should pause their duel, to allow for a coordinated humanitarian response.
Three years after the FARC peace deal, Colombia’s Pacific region has seen surges of both dissident guerrilla activity and drug-related crime. To better aid this historically neglected area, the state should expand its presence, speed up development projects and improve educational opportunities for all.
Talks in Havana with the ELN, Colombia’s last insurgency, are advancing at a slow pace. Backed by international actors, the current government and guerrilla negotiators should aim for rapid progress in negotiations to minimise the chance of a sceptical incoming president abandoning the peace process.
Colombia’s president-elect campaigned on a pledge to “modify” the 2016 peace with the FARC guerrillas, despite its goal of reducing the rural inequality underlying that insurgency. The new government should steer clear of hardline policies that alienate the countryside and hinder the ex-guerrilla's path to civilian life.
Colombia’s 2016 peace accord has brought over 10,000 FARC fighters to the cusp of civilian life, but in their wake rival armed groups are battling for control of vacated territory and lucrative coca crops. In order to roll back booming drug production and expanding non-state groups, the Colombian government should provide local farmers with alternative livelihoods while developing grassroots security and local governance.
The history in Colombia is when you start a wave of violence it accelerates and it’s very hard to stop.
The string of assassinations of indigenous leaders in Cauca illustrates some of the fundamental tensions at the center of the debate about protection for human rights defenders in Colombia.
As long as each side [in Venezuela] pursues a winner-take-all approach, they are less willing to make concessions and a deal will remain elusive.
A former FARC negotiator and member of its Central High Command, alias Jesús Santrich, abandoned his security detail on Saturday night and has since gone missing. Who is he, why is there talk of scandal and what does this mean for Colombia’s peace process? A thread
It’s essential that the state will take responsibility for [FARC fighters] basic needs so that they can become an integrated part of Colombian society. [The healthcare issue] raises the fundamental question that goes through the whole implementation of the peace process, which is: how much has the Colombian state oversold itself?
El Eln [colombiano] estuvo en consultas internas hasta el martes pasado y si en esas reuniones acordaron hacer un desescalamiento podríamos estarlo viendo en este momento.
Colombia’s grassroots leaders face a rising tide of attacks as they campaign for conflict-stricken communities’ rights. These assaults weaken the peace accord, undermine its base of popular support and expose the state’s grave difficulties in protecting communities from forces with vested interests and violent designs. Protecting these leaders, deterring their enemies and ensuring their communities’ safety should be put at the heart of security policy.
As Venezuela’s economy plumbs the depths of collapse, a new cohort of refugees is trekking across parched landscapes to Colombia. It consists of the most vulnerable, including poor expectant mothers, unaccompanied children and the sick, people with no defence against the predations of armed bands.
On 27 October, Colombia will hold its first local elections since a 2016 peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson explains what is at stake politically and why so much violence has accompanied the campaign.
Two years ago, Crisis Group found that major threats to Colombia’s peace process with former guerrillas all intersect in the Pacific coastal district of Tumaco. Our Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson made it his mission to find out more.