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.
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.
New govt took steps to revive talks with ELN and other armed and criminal groups; Colombia and Venezuela restored diplomatic relations. President Petro 7 Aug took office, becoming first left-leaning president in country’s recent history. During inauguration speech, Petro promised to complete implementation of 2016 peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); also called on armed and criminal groups to lay down their weapons, referring to govt’s “Total Peace” plan aimed at reviving negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) and demobilising other armed groups. Following this appeal, Petro 11 Aug sent high-level delegation to Cuba, where ELN negotiating team has remained in exile since talks broke down in 2019. Govt’s negotiating commission 12 Aug said it would “recognise the legitimacy of the rebel negotiators” and reinstate protocols signed in 2016, including protections for negotiators and roles for guarantor states Norway and Cuba; commission added that ELN said it will take “necessary steps to restart talks”. Petro 19 Aug suspended arrest and extradition warrants of ELN negotiators; defence ministry 25 Aug announced govt will suspend aerial bombing of armed groups; Petro 27 Aug proposed multilateral ceasefire to armed groups throughout country; interior minister 30 Aug submitted bill to Congress laying out peace initiative to pave way for negotiations with armed groups. In ELN’s stronghold Arauca department (north east), group 12 Aug announced release of nine individuals held captive; 18 Aug released six military personnel. Criminal organisation Gulf Clan 7 Aug announced unilateral ceasefire, expressed “goodwill to take part in exploratory talks”. Govt 12 Aug announced new military and police leadership, sending around 50 generals into retirement; reaction from military, broadly sceptical of president, was muted. Meanwhile, in Cauca department (south west), unknown assailants 28 Aug killed three members of indigenous community in Caldono municipality; suspected FARC dissidents 31 Aug kidnapped at least five minors, killed another near Argelia town. After incoming administration and Venezuela late-July agreed to reestablish relations, Petro 28 Aug sent new ambassador, Armando Benedetti, to Caracas, reversing outgoing President Duque’s confrontational policy toward Venezuela; Venezuelan President Maduro same day sent former FM Félix Plasencia as Venezuela's representative in Bogotá.
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.
Coca is really just the currency of Colombia’s ongoing conflict.
Today, the commitment of ex-combatants [of FARC] to remaining in civilian life is visible across Colombia and deserves the full support of the international community.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to experts Beth Dickinson and Renata Segura about Colombia’s presidential election, as the country heads into a run-off between two anti-establishment candidates: leftist Gustavo Petro and a millionaire often likened to Donald Trump, Rodolfo Hernández.
Colombians head to the polls on 29 May for the first round of a presidential contest that will starkly pose left against right. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson lays out the stakes for the country’s future stability.
Members of Colombia's longest-running insurgency face new challenges since the 2016 peace accord. In this photo essay, part of a larger project on deadly violence in Latin America, one former fighter tells his story to Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.
Armed conflict in Colombia is escalating in rural areas, with some communities reporting higher levels of violence or coercion than before the peace agreement. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to encourage the implementation of the 2016 peace accord and help Colombia find substitutes for the coca crop.