In November 2016, the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war, yet peace remains elusive as new armed groups have stepped in to compete for territory and illicit businesses. To defend the gains of the peace process and stop a new cycle of conflict from taking hold, the state must redress the inequality underlying social discontent, make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN, and design security strategies that put protecting people first. 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 new patterns of armed conflict to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
The new Colombian government has resolved to curb violence throughout rural areas where guerrillas and criminals hold sway. Its approach – dialogue and security reform – is admirable but risky. Any deal it strikes should seek to halt all the types of coercion the illicit groups employ.
Petro administration’s “total peace” policy moved forward as fresh talks with ELN took place, but high levels of violence continued.
Authorities advanced peace efforts with two armed groups. Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) 13 Feb began second round of peace talks in Mexico City, focusing on ceasefire and humanitarian access to conflict-afflicted areas. Justice Minister Néstor Osuna 22 Feb joined negotiations to address ELN concerns about conditions of imprisoned members. Delegations 25 Feb said they are working on agenda to advance process. Talks between govt and FARC-EP, dissident faction of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), also progressed. Sides 8 Feb signed ceasefire protocols, which crucially provide for multiparty monitoring system including govt, military, FARC-EP, Catholic Church, Organization of American State’s mission in Colombia and local activists, though mechanism is not yet active. Top peace official Danilo Rueda 21 Feb said govt expects “dialogue phase” with FARC-EP to begin in “coming weeks”. Yet in apparent breach of ceasefire, front belonging to FARC-EP same day killed one soldier in Cauca department.
Govt proposed new legislation to facilitate talks with criminal groups. Following legal crisis in Jan over ceasefires and talks with criminal outfits, govt 15 Feb presented draft law to Congress intended to address dispute over legality of ceasefire and proposal to lift arrest warrants for criminal group negotiators. Law sets out possible conditions for large-scale criminal demobilisation, such as reduced prison terms and option for individuals to retain up to 6% of ill-gotten gains.
Civilians bore brunt of continued armed and criminal group violence. Confrontations among armed and criminal groups continued unabated along Pacific coast throughout Feb, hurting civilians. Notably, UN 3 Feb said over 2,100 people in Chocó department were forcibly confined amid armed group incursion in Alto Baudó municipality; 17 Feb reported multiple mass displacements 8-13 Feb along coast of Nariño department, where two rival FARC dissident fronts are battling for control. In Guaviare department, roughly 2,000 people continued to face movement restrictions amid recent arrival of FARC dissident faction Segunda Marquetalia in area under FARC-EP control.
None of the armed groups [in Colombia] will give up anything significant unless they are under military pressure.
Indigenous communities have suffered disproportionately from targeted violence, displacement and massacres throughout Colombia’s conflict.
From a humanitarian, security and economic perspective the closure of the border [between Colombia and Venezuela] has been a disaster. It’s pushed migrants in the directi...
[The] strategy of fear, hate and stigmatization towards the left [in Colombia] no longer works as a policy to win voters.
The main [concern for voters in Colombia] is just sort of bread and butter economic issues, access to education, services... inequality.
The security strategy [of the Colombian government] of focusing on high profile targets does not guarantee security for civilians.
El evento explora los principios de la "paz total" y explica el papel de la comunidad internacional para ayudar a Colombia a abordar la violencia que afecta a la sociedad.
After a three-year diplomatic conflict between Colombia and Venezuela, Bogotá and Caracas are now resuming relations. Starting in 2019, this timeline presents the events that led to the rupture and the significant steps taken toward rebuilding ties between the two states.
As part of his commitment to bringing “total peace” to Colombia, President Gustavo Petro has inaugurated new talks with the country’s last leftist insurgency. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson explains why this round of negotiations could differ from failed past attempts.
Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, says he will work to bring “total peace” to the countryside, including areas roiled by violent competition among criminal and other armed groups. This task will require significant changes to military approaches devised for fighting the insurgencies of the past.
Launch event of Crisis Group’s report Trapped in Conflict: Reforming Military Strategy to Save Lives in Colombia, based on extensive fieldwork in different regions of Colombia and dozens of interviews with the military and communities. It was held in Bogotá on Tuesday 27 September 2022 at 8:30 am. In the report, Crisis Group analyses why military strategy in Colombia’s rural areas has failed to contain the conflicts that arose following the 2016 peace accord with its largest guerrilla movement (FARC). Crisis Group also proposes new civilian government leaders to prioritise community protection in rural areas and embrace new indicators for gauging the military’s success. The panel was composed of Martha Maya, Latin America Program Director at the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFI), Elizabeth Dickinson, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Colombia, and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group's Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Alberto Lara Losada couldn't attend.
Crisis Group experts talk in this Twitter Space about what can be done to better protect Venezuelan migrants fleeing to Colombia from exploitation by criminal armed groups. The discussion was hosted by Bram Ebus, consultant for Latin America, Mariano de Alba, our senior advocacy advisor for Latin America and Glaeldys González, Giustra fellow for Latin America.
In recent years, Venezuelans have streamed into Colombia looking for work and respite from their country’s socio-economic meltdown. But dangers also await them, including the clutches of organised crime. Bogotá’s change of government is a chance to reset policy to keep the migrants safer.
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