After four years of up-and-down negotiations, the Colombian government and rebel FARC guerrillas signed a peace agreement in November 2016. To implement it, the country must now deploy major financial, institutional and human resources to address the inequalities that sustained the conflict for five decades. Working on the conflict since 2002, Crisis Group has published more than 36 reports and briefings and had over 500 meetings with all parties. We monitor deal implementation and carry out field research on issues ranging from local corruption to drug trafficking and local institutions. We are well-positioned to influence all stakeholders in the peace process in order to support sustainable and inclusive peace efforts in Colombia.
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.
Iván Duque from Democratic Centre party sworn in as new president 7 Aug; in his speech advocated corrections to peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and stated that govt would take 30 days to study negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group before making decision on whether to continue them, prompting fears that ELN violence could increase upon end of negotiations. ELN 3 Aug kidnapped two civilians and four soldiers in Chocó (north west), stating they would be willing to free them as “humanitarian gesture” to new govt, and are willing to continue peace talks; Duque 10 Aug said govt would not be intimidated by kidnappings. ELN suspected of killing nine people in El Tarra, Catatumbo region (north east) 30 July, including former FARC members who had joined dissident groups. FARC dissident violence continued in Tumaco (south west) with clashes displacing 650 residents in city 1 Aug. Police 5 Aug captured second-in-command of Gaitán Self-Defence Forces (AGC, country’s largest drug trafficking group), alias Nicolás, in Antioquia province (north west). Duque 16 Aug announced 100-day police plan focusing on ten crimes that most affect citizen security including kidnapping and homicide. Clashes between ELN and AGC in Chocó during first weeks of Aug trapped some 3,700 indigenous people in their communities; police 26 Aug reported child killed and two indigenous women injured in ELN-AGC clash in Juradó. Senators formerly belonging to FARC 22 Aug proposed their first ever bill which would give lenient treatment to small-scale drug growing farmers who are willing to substitute their crops. Referendum on introducing tougher anti-corruption laws failed to pass 25 Aug due to turnout falling just short of required threshold, despite nearly 99% of voters supporting proposals.
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.
Revised and ratified after its shock rejection in October 2016’s referendum, Colombia’s peace agreement still lacks sustainable political support. Reversing public distrust will need swift and effective implementation of the accord – including full apologies for past crimes and the visible handover of weapons by insurgents.
To convert August’s historic peace deal into a durable end to 52 years of conflict, the government and FARC rebels must redouble efforts to achieve a full cessation of hostilities, a successful plebiscite, and UN-monitored ceasefire and weapons handover process.
Recent advances have given Colombia’s peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) a much-needed respite, but, amid an escalation of violence, the risks of an involuntary collapse are real. Saving the process requires conflict de-escalation, swift progress on the agenda and rallying popular support.
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.
Increased prices can be charged to [Venezuelan] migrants because of their sheer desire to cross [the border to reach Colombia].
[Colombia's FARC-EP guerrilla] is one of the few conflicts that has been solved at a negotiating table in recent decades, so I think we really have to support it, and make sure it does not fail.
There is a massive diversity of views [in Colombia]. But the sense that only through compromise can you bring about peace tends to be much stronger in those areas that suffered the worst violence.
[Colombia's FARC leader] Timochenko’s discourse has to do with trying to pressure the government, not only for FARC’s own political game but also because of the elections coming up.
Originally published in Verdad Abierta
Negociar sigue siendo la mejor opción frente al Eln. Sin embargo, el grupo recientemente ha minado fuertemente la viabilidad política de la negociación en más de una ocasción. Si no se le puede derrotar y no parece querer negociar en serio, ¿qué se debería hacer?
Originally published in El Espectador
La decisión del gobierno colombiano de levantarse de la mesa después del atentado en Barranquilla profundiza la crisis del proceso de negociación con el Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). Las divisiones internas del ELN y el hecho de no pactar otro cese al fuego podrían darle el golpe de gracia a las negociaciones.
Originally published in Razón Pública
Growing distrust of Colombia’s outgoing government combined with deteriorating security in rural areas is undermining faith in the country’s peace accord. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to engage with opposition leaders to discuss the costs of ditching the deal.
Over the last seven years, the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has worked strenuously to dissociate the country from its image as a cocaine exporter. In 2016, Santos struck a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the guerrilla group that for years stood watch over coca farms and had become the wholesaler and arbiter of the cocaine trafficking business.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs