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.
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.
Clashes between security forces and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents continued, while govt’s continued suspension of peace talks with second guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) prompted fears for escalation of violence. In Yarumal, Antioquia province (north west), govt 2 Oct bombed camp supposedly housing FARC’s 36th Front dissident group commander, alias “Cabuyo”, and killed two dissidents in 10 Oct clash, after group killed three employees of mining company 20 Sept. Army 8 Oct captured high-ranking dissident in Arauca (east). Military reported that 40th Front dissidents 15 Oct killed two soldiers in La Macarena, Meta province (south), while dissidents also attacked army in police barracks in Cauca (south west) 10 Oct. With govt-ELN negotiations still suspended, spate of attacks attributed to ELN during month reinforced fears that talks may collapse completely. Kidnap of five-year old son of mayor 3 Oct in town of El Carmen, Catatumbo (north east), caused outrage, with many believing ELN responsible; child released 9 Oct. Govt continued to demand ELN release remaining hostages (reportedly numbering ten) before talks resume; however full number of kidnapped unknown, eight presumed dead. ELN 18 Oct suspected of carrying out mass killing of at least sixteen people in Bolívar state in Venezuela, seen as sign of guerrillas’ expanding operations. Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) – country’s main drug trafficking group – clashed with splinter group Caparrapos in Antioquia department 28 Sept, displacing over 300 people. Political killings of community activists continued, including murder of women's rights activist Maria Caicedo Muñoz, kidnapped 20 Oct by unidentified assailants and found dead 26 Oct in Rio Macay, Cauca. President Duque continued to call for tougher approach to drug trade and more international support for Colombia to deal with influx of Venezuelan refugees (see Venezuela). Duque also ordered deployment of additional 5,000 troops to Catatumbo, on border with Venezuela, to fight drug trafficking and illegal armed groups.
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.