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.
Colombia’s vast forest is fast receding, partly because guerrillas and criminals are clearing land for farming, ranching and other pursuits. These unregulated activities are causing both dire environmental harm and deadly conflict. Bogotá should take urgent steps to halt the damage.
Originally published in Newsweek
Originally published in House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
Authorities apprehended most wanted crime lord while rural violence persisted, particularly in key trafficking routes including Pacific coast, Bajo Cauca and Venezuelan border. Authorities 23 Oct arrested leader of country’s largest criminal organisation, alias Otoniel, in joint army, air force and police operation in Antioquia department; President Duque hailed capture as “biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century”. Fierce fighting involving armed groups and military sparked mass displacements along Pacific coast, including of over 230 people from indigenous reserve in Nariño department mid-Oct, and of over 400 in Cauca department around 20 Oct as military engaged in heavy fighting against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents and National Liberation Army. UN also reported inter-urban displacement accelerated in Oct in Buenaventura port city, Valle del Cauca department, due to armed group competition for territorial control. Social leaders in Antioquia and Córdoba departments throughout month reported increasing threats from Gulf Clan, one of country’s main criminal organisations, and other armed groups. Attacks on social leaders continued at high level. Notably, unidentified assailants 1 and 7 Oct killed three activists in Putumayo department; 6 Oct attacked teenage son of spokesperson of national coca growers’ union in Córdoba department. String of attacks on security forces late Sept-early Oct left several dead across country, including two police in Santander de Quilichao municipality, Cauca department, 9 Oct. Violence against former FARC members persisted with at least two killed in Cauca department week of 9-15 Oct. Govt 6 Oct said it deployed 14,000-strong military unit to Norte de Santander department near border with Venezuela; move came one day after Caracas reopened land border with Colombia after two-year closure. Constitutional Court 1 Oct extended mandate of Truth Commission, created by 2016 peace accord, for another nine months; Commission had been set to finish its work in Nov, but has yet to deliver its final report. International Criminal Court 28 Oct said it had shelved preliminary probe into crimes committed during Colombia’s nearly six-decade civil war, saying it would leave investigations to domestic institutions.
In Colombia’s history of protest, the 2021 mobilisations against inequality and police brutality stand out for their breadth and intensity. Unrest has quieted for now but could soon return. The government should urgently reform the security sector while working to narrow the country’s socio-economic chasms.
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.
There is no armed or military solution to this crisis [in Colombia]. But agendas on all sides are increasingly tempted to look for one.
There is no way you could credibly claim that any armed or criminal group is motivating or coercing protesters to the street [in Colombia].
There’s a lot of work to be done to fix social cohesion [in Colombia] because violence is at times the default answer, which is a legacy of so many years of conflict.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group experts Renata Segura and Beth Dickinson about protests across Colombia, the inequality and police violence that are motivating people to take to the streets, and prospects for reform.
Colombia’s cities, towns and countryside are aflame with popular protests. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson traces the unrest’s origins to inequality, police impunity and the government’s seeming aloofness from the street.
In the jungle along the Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, guerrillas, criminals and shadowy state elements jostle for illicit profits. Venezuela’s campaign against one armed group has raised tensions. Bogotá and Caracas should temper their war of words and work to forestall an inadvertent bilateral escalation.
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.