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.
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.
In first round of presidential elections 27 May, right-wing candidate Iván Duque, prominent critic of peace agreement between govt and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), won 39.1% of vote, leftist former guerrilla Gustavo Petro 25.1%; both go through to second round 17 June. Drug trafficking probes involving FARC commanders continued: Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), established under peace deal to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict, 17 May suspended extradition of former FARC commander Jesús Santrich to U.S. on trafficking charges until govt proves his alleged crimes took place after signing of peace agreement; Colombia’s attorney general accused JEP of having “threatened democratic institutions”, said ruling invalid. Former FARC commander Iván Márquez, also suspected of drug trafficking and who left Bogotá for southern Caquetá province 19 April, announced he would not take office as senator in July in protest against drug trafficking charges against Santrich, and accused govt of wrecking peace accord. Four former FARC fighters killed during May, bringing total former FARC members killed in 2018 to 24. Conflict with FARC dissident groups continued. Gentil Duarte-led Seventh Front allegedly killed two Colombian marines 1 May in town of Puerto Cachicamo, in Guaviare (south east); security forces operation led to death of eight Seventh Front dissidents in Putumayo (south) 16 May; army 11 May captured alias “Mordisco”, leader of Sixth Front dissident group, in Cauca (south west); govt bombed camp in Caquetá belonging to Seventh Front 28 May, killing eleven; some civil society organisations stated two fighters said to have died in operation were peasant leaders. Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group 10 May resumed negotiations in Cuba following Ecuador’s April announcement it would no longer host talks. ELN 14 May announced unilateral ceasefire around elections 25-29 May. Security forces 17 May captured five ELN Héroes de Anorí front guerrillas in Antioquia (north west). Fighting continued between ELN and Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL) in Catatumbo (north east); clashes in Hacarí left several dead 15 May. JEP 8 May ruled that “parapoliticians” – politicians who sided with paramilitaries during conflict – would be excluded from transitional justice system, arguing that they were motivated by personal interest rather than political cause.
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.
As they move toward a final peace agreement, the negotiators of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) face the challenge of laying out a credible path for guerrilla fighters to abandon arms and reintegrate into society.
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.
The borders [between Venezuela and Colombia] are unstable at the moment due to both the humanitarian situation and to the number of criminal and violent actors.
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.
Over the last seven years, the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has worked strenuously to dissociate the country from its image as a cocaine exporter. In 2016, Santos struck a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the guerrilla group that for years stood watch over coca farms and had become the wholesaler and arbiter of the cocaine trafficking business.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
One of the most pressing security threats in Colombia following the signing of the the FARC peace agreement is fighting between armed groups trying to gain control over territories and illegal business, such as coca production, previously dominated by the FARC. In this video, Senior Analyst for Colombia Kyle Johnson and Latin America Program Director Ivan Briscoe highlight main findings of Crisis Group's report Colombia’s Armed Groups and the Fight for the Spoils of Peace.