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.
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.
National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla reiterated willingness to resume negotiations as it released prisoners, a govt precondition to resume talks, while armed groups exploited COVID-19 pandemic to increase control over territories. Following mediation by International Red Cross, govt ombudsman and Catholic church, ELN 12 June released two people held in Arauca department (east) since early May, 15 June released six others, including former police officers, in Norte de Santander department (north east), and 18 June handed over army captain captured 7 June in Arauca. ELN chief negotiator Pablo Beltrán 16 June reiterated group’s willingness to negotiate with govt; however, govt insisted group is still holding up to ten hostages. Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, one of country’s main drug trafficking groups) 12 June also released minor in Bajo Cauca area of Antioquia department (north west). Amid COVID-19 pandemic, several municipalities in Antioquia reported throughout month that criminal groups including AGC and AGC splinter group Caparros imposed checkpoints to limit movement. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups also reportedly issued movement restrictions notably in Putumayo (south), Cauca (south west), and Amazonas (south) departments. ELN prohibited return of urban residents to rural areas in south of Bolívar department (north). Amid national COVID-19 lockdown, govt ombudsman early June warned that armed groups were recruiting children out of school; concerns also grew over rise in femicides and forced disappearances of women, as bodies of two women were found 16 June in Segovia and Fredonia municipalities, Antioquia. Amid high rates of COVID-19 transmission notably in Amazonas department along Brazilian border and in Barranquilla and Cartagena cities on Atlantic coast, govt extended nationwide lockdown until 15 July; in capital Bogotá and second-largest city Medellín, protesters sporadically blocked major roads to protest movement restrictions, delays in distribution of food aid, and corruption in management of aid. Killings of social leaders continued; authorities 24 June recovered body of activist Edier Adán Lopera, allegedly killed 15 June by Caparros in Tarazá municipality, Antioquia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A former FARC negotiator and member of its Central High Command, alias Jesús Santrich, abandoned his security detail on Saturday night and has since gone missing. Who is he, why is there talk of scandal and what does this mean for Colombia’s peace process? A thread
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].
Two years ago, Crisis Group found that major threats to Colombia’s peace process with former guerrillas all intersect in the Pacific coastal district of Tumaco. Our Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson made it his mission to find out more.
Colombia’s fragile peace is threatened by rural violence and the humanitarian burden of hosting Venezuelan refugees. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to sustain strong support for the implementation of the 2016 peace accords.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.
After Bogotá’s deadliest bombing since 2003, the government is likely to crack down hard on Colombia’s last guerrilla group, the ELN. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Colombia Kyle Johnson says any new military campaign should distinguish between ELN factions and is unlikely to inflict a lasting defeat on the rebels.