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.
After Bogotá’s deadliest bombing since 2003, the government is likely to crack down hard on Colombia’s last guerrilla group, the ELN. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Colombia Kyle Johnson says any new military campaign should distinguish between ELN factions and is unlikely to inflict a lasting defeat on the rebels.
Govt refused to reciprocate National Liberation Army (ELN) Christmas truce, fuelling fears it may abandon the currently-suspended peace process, while Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups continued to strengthen and carry out violence across country. ELN 17 Dec announced unilateral truce 23 Dec-3 Jan; govt responded that armed forces would continue to operate throughout country, including against ELN; President Duque reiterated conditions to continue talks with ELN are release of kidnapping victims and end to criminal activities. ELN attack on road between Medellín, Antioquia province (north west) and Caribbean coast killed civilian 8 Dec. In continuing FARC dissident violence, 33rd front dissident group 10 Dec reportedly kidnapped ten Venezuelan refugee minors in town of La Gabarra, Catatumbo (north east); military 21 Dec killed alias “Guacho”, leader of dissident Oliver Sinisterra front, in operation near Ecuadoran border (south west). In other violence, unknown assailants 17 Dec shot and killed six people including teenage boy in Mapiripán, Meta (centre), in area where First front FARC dissident group and Puntilleros drug trafficking group both operate. Authorities 4 Dec killed Puntilleros commander alias “Puntilla” during operation in Medellín. Reports emerged that in early Oct, certain FARC dissident leaders and ELN mid-level commanders met in Venezuela to coordinate economic activities along Venezuelan border area and discuss political cooperation. Country’s largest drug trafficking group Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces (AGC) declared unilateral truce 8 Dec-10 Jan. Political killings of community activists continued, including murder of two indigenous leaders in Cauca 6-7 Dec. FM Carlos Holmes Trujillo 30 Dec announced govt had uncovered “credible” plot to assassinate President Duque, and had arrested three Venezuelans in connection with alleged plot earlier in Dec.
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.
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.
President Iván Duque Márquez entered office in August 2018 as armed groups expand and the humanitarian situation in neighbouring Venezuela drives thousands across the border every day. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU to work to shore up the peace agreement and help Colombia respond to the humanitarian emergency.
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.