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.
This week, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Beth Dickinson, Crisis Group’s Colombia expert, about the violence in Colombia’s countryside over coca production and why the government’s forced eradication of coca is making things worse.
Ombudsman reported record displacement figures since early 2021, while controversy emerged over govt’s handling of children forcibly recruited into armed groups. Ombudsman’s office 8 March reported more than 11,000 people forcibly displaced in 2021, compared to 15,000 in all of 2020; displacement highest along Pacific coast, where rival armed groups have been clashing over territorial control and opposing military; 90% of those displaced reportedly from Indigenous or Afro-Colombian communities. UN humanitarian office 9 March said unclear number of people, up to 3,000, displaced by brutal dispute between rival criminal groups in port city of Buenaventura, Valle de Cauca department (west along Pacific coast) since early Jan; UN Human Rights Office in Colombia 19 March recorded over 41 homicides and 13 cases of disappearance in city since early Jan, urged authorities to dismantle criminal networks operating there. Military airstrike on camp of alleged Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident faction 2 March killed several combatants in Calamar municipality, Guaviare department (centre south). After local journalist 9 March claimed 14 minors killed, Defence Minister Diego Molano next day said child recruits are “war machines” no longer deserving state protection; in response, director of child protection agency Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar same day said child soldiers are victims. Forensics next day confirmed death in govt airstrike of 16-year-old and two other youths aged 18 and 19. Meanwhile, car bomb allegedly placed by FARC dissidents outside town hall of Corinto, Cauca department (south west), 26 March wounded 43 people. Colombian NGO Dejusticia 7 March released Dec 2020 letter from seven UN Special Rapporteurs to President Duque expressing strong opposition to resumption of aerial fumigation of coca, citing “enormous risks for the environment and human rights” and violation of 2016 peace agreement. Govt subsequently dismissed letter and maintained intention to restart fumigation in April. Clashes between Venezuela’s military and Colombian FARC dissidents 21 March erupted in Venezuelan border state of Apure; Colombian govt 28 March said 4,700 had sought refuge in Colombia since fighting started; refugees reportedly accused Venezuelan soldiers of abuses, including killing civilians.
Coca gives Colombian small farmers a stable livelihood but also endangers their lives, as criminals battle over the drug trade and authorities try to shut it down. Bogotá and Washington should abandon their heavy-handed elimination efforts and help growers find alternatives to the hardy plant.
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.
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.
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.
Coca crops have set record yields in Colombia since the 2016 peace accord with FARC guerrillas, persuading the government to expand its forced eradication campaign with the backing of U.S. authorities. Bogotá claims that eliminating the plant will reduce rural violence.
Online event joining together experts on drug policy from the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA), field-level expertise from Corporación Viso Mutop and Crisis Group senior analysts to discuss our new report: "Deeply Rooted: Coca Eradication and Violence in Colombia."
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia, explains how he made peace with the FARC guerrillas after leading a fierce military campaign against them for years and what lessons this experience teaches for conflict prevention around the world.
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.