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 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.
Security situation continued to deteriorate along Pacific coast and Venezuelan border, and govt took further steps toward restarting contentious coca crop fumigation. In Cauca department (south west along Pacific coast), clashes involving guerrilla groups National Liberation Army and self-described Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents, and military, continued in Argelia municipality, reportedly killing 14 guerillas and one military officer 17 April; Ombudsman’s Office next day reported 250 civilians displaced and several injured by anti-personnel mines. Also in Cauca, unidentified gunmen 20 April shot dead indigenous leader Sandra Liliana Peña in Caldono town, and 22 April opened fire on members of indigenous community who were destroying coca crops in Caldono municipality, leaving 31 injured. NGO Indepaz 20 April reported 52 social leaders and human rights activists killed across country since 1 Jan; later said seven demobilised FARC combatants were killed in several regions 14-21 April. Clashes between FARC dissidents and Venezuelan army continued in Venezuela’s Apure state near Colombian border (see Venezuela), fuelling tensions between both countries. Notably, Colombia 13 April decried Venezuelan President Maduro’s leadership as “illegitimate”. As part of efforts to meet conditions set by 2017 Constitutional Court ruling to restart aerial fumigation of coca crops, govt 12 April issued decree outlining regulations to govern spraying with glyphosate pesticide. Earlier in month, govt 6 April signed decree relocating citizens’ constitutional injunctions on national security issues – including those related to eradication and fumigation – from regional court system into administrative body Council of State; move comes after several petitions in regional courts held back fumigation. President Duque 20 April said govt expects to restart spraying as soon as June in coca-dense Norte de Santander department (north east). Civil society activists 20 April sent petition backed by 20,000 signatures to Constitutional Court, requesting it prevent govt from resuming fumigation, citing inefficiency in reducing cultivation and health and environment risks. Thousands 28-30 April protested govt’s tax reform proposal in several cities, notably in Cali city in Valle del Cauca department; protests turned violent reportedly leaving several killed and hundreds of civilians and police injured.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Coca crops have set record yields in Colombia since the 2016 peace accord with FARC guerrillas, persuading the government to expand its forced eradication campaign with the backing of U.S. authorities. Bogotá claims that eliminating the plant will reduce rural violence.
Online event joining together experts on drug policy from the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA), field-level expertise from Corporación Viso Mutop and Crisis Group senior analysts to discuss our new report: "Deeply Rooted: Coca Eradication and Violence in Colombia."
Throughout Colombia, social leaders are a staple of community life, providing services and defending rights that the state does not. But these activists face growing dangers from the criminals, ex-paramilitaries and self-styled guerrillas whose rackets they disrupt. This is one woman’s story.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia, explains how he made peace with the FARC guerrillas after leading a fierce military campaign against them for years and what lessons this experience teaches for conflict prevention around the world.