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.
Tensions are rising on the Colombia-Venezuela border after a new guerrilla faction opted out of Colombia’s 2016 peace deal. With diplomatic ties between the two countries severed, the risk of escalation is high. Bogotá and Caracas should open channels of communication to avoid inter-state clashes.
Amid political violence ahead of Oct local elections, tensions with Venezuela continued over its alleged support of Colombian guerrillas. Following late-Aug return to arms by three former senior commanders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), govt continued to accuse Venezuelan govt of harbouring, assisting and training Colombian guerrilla groups. FM Trujillo 11 Sept said govt has proof Venezuelan President Maduro violated 2001 UN Security Council resolution banning support for terrorist groups at Organization of American States meeting in bid to activate regional defence Rio Treaty, which could lead to stronger regional sanctions, blockade or military offensive; President Duque presented evidence at UN General Assembly 25 Sept. Venezuela accused Colombia of attempting to recruit Venezuelan soldiers to sabotage its air defence systems, reportedly responding with military drills near border since 10 Sept; UN Sec-Gen Guterres 11 Sept asked govts to initiate dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Transitional justice mechanism Special Jurisdiction for Peace 13 Sept officially expelled leading members of new FARC dissent group Jesús Santrich and alias “El Paisa”, will no longer receive protections of 2016 peace agreement. Political violence increased ahead of 27 Oct local elections, including unknown assailants 15 Sept murdering Bernardo Betancourt Orozco, mayoral candidate for Tibú in Catatumbo (north east), seventh candidate killed since campaigning began 27 July; Duque 16 Sept said govt will reinforce candidates’ protection, but National Protection Unit director 18 Sept told Congress he had run out of resources. UN humanitarian agency 12 Sept reported clashes between army and National Liberation Army (ELN) which started 22 Aug had confined 3,816 people in municipalities of Medio San Juan and Istmina, Chocó (west); ELN 12 Sept killed soldier in attack on troops in La Gabarra municipality, Norte de Santander (north east). Clashes between army and the Gaitanista criminal group in Bajo Cauca region, Antioquia (north west), killed four soldiers 3 Sept. Security Council 12 Sept voted unanimously to extend mandate of UN verification mission to oversee implementation of peace accord.
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.
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.
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].
[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.
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.
Crisis Group’s third update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on economic reforms in Libya, preserving the fragile quiet in Syria’s Idlib province, addressing the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, supporting Colombia's uneasy peace process and averting violence in Nigeria's upcoming elections. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
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.