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.
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.
Attacks by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group continued at slightly higher rates than usual, while violence in Tumaco continued at extreme levels. Peace talks between govt and ELN remained suspended following late Jan attacks, however informal communication channels stay open. ELN continues to deny it violated any agreement but did announce a unilateral ceasefire between 9 and 13 March to coincide with legislative elections, a move which President Santos praised. ELN attacks included “armed stoppage” in areas under its control 10-13 Feb, during which it carried out attacks and prohibited transportation; various attacks during month resulted in one soldier and two ELN fighters killed. ELN attack in Norte de Santander province killed five soldiers and wounded ten 26 Feb. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reported ELN killed three of its members in Nariño (south west) 1 Feb and one in Bolívar (north west) 8 Feb. FARC political party 9 Feb announced suspension of its electoral campaign after attacks against it including verbal threats, vandalism against its offices in Valle del Cauca province. FARC dissident factions continued to grow in Arauca (north east) and Nariño (south west) provinces and were also confirmed in Antioquia (north west). Crop substitution agreements were signed in nine municipalities in Putumayo (south west) and Piamonte, Cauca (south west), involving 20,000 families and 15,000 ha. Killings of social leaders continued to rise; Colombian NGO Electoral Observation Mission 17 Feb reported 31 murders, eleven attacks and twenty threats since beginning of electoral campaigning in Dec, seen as likely to continue until presidential poll in May/June. As concern continued over migration, instability and violence on border with Venezuela, President Santos 8 Feb announced special measures to deal with increasing influx of Venezuelan refugees, including deployment of over 2,000 troops to patrol Norte de Santander border region. Foreign ministry end Jan estimated 550,000 Venezuelans migrated to Colombia in 2017, with 15,000 crossing legally each month.
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.
As they move toward a final peace agreement, the negotiators of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) face the challenge of laying out a credible path for guerrilla fighters to abandon arms and reintegrate into society.
Bringing the National Liberation Army (ELN) into the current round of negotiations is vital for durable peace.
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.
The borders [between Venezuela and Colombia] are unstable at the moment due to both the humanitarian situation and to the number of criminal and violent actors.
The [Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) should] realise that its bid for social participation in the peace talks actually depends on the cessation of its hostilities.
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
One of the most pressing security threats in Colombia following the signing of the the FARC peace agreement is fighting between armed groups trying to gain control over territories and illegal business, such as coca production, previously dominated by the FARC. In this video, Senior Analyst for Colombia Kyle Johnson and Latin America Program Director Ivan Briscoe highlight main findings of Crisis Group's report Colombia’s Armed Groups and the Fight for the Spoils of Peace.