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.
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.
Armed groups continued to vie for control of territory in rural areas. Clashes between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident factions and Gaitanista Drug Cartel (AGC) over territorial control further intensified in several regions. FARC dissident factions 18th and 52nd Fronts 2 Jan circulated pamphlet in Bajo Cauca area of Antioquia and Córdoba departments (north west), vowing to purge AGC and any other resistance from Nudo de Paramillo mountains. Govt ombudsman 8 Jan warned about accelerating combat between FARC dissidents and AGC-affiliated groups in Cauca, Putumayo and Caquetá departments (south west). Meanwhile, violence involving military, National Liberation Army (ELN) and FARC dissident factions continued in Cauca. Notably, suspected ELN combatants 15 Dec killed municipal councillor for Argelia municipality in El Plateado area; councilman was prominent defender of peasants’ land rights and strong advocate for coca crops substitution. Twelve more councillors from Argelia were evacuated to capital Bogotá 26 Jan after facing threats to their lives. On two-year anniversary of ELN bomb attack on police training academy in Bogotá, President Duque 17 Jan reiterated request for Cuba to extradite ELN leadership to face trial as suspected masterminds of attack, which left 22 dead, and other crimes. Special Jurisdiction for Peace (established under govt-FARC peace deal to handle cases deriving from conflict) 28 Jan charged eight former FARC high-ranking members with war crimes for kidnapping more than 21,000 people during decades-long conflict, including current head of FARC political party Rodrigo Londoño. Duque 4 Jan announced goal to manually eradicate 130,000 hectares of coca in 2021 – a similar number to what was achieved in 2020. Meanwhile, legal challenges continued to delay resumption of aerial fumigation, halted in 2015 over health concerns. Pasto regional court (Nariño department, south west) 14 Jan ruled that govt must undertake prior consultation with indigenous and ethnic communities in order to resume spraying. In letter to new U.S. administration, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities 21 Jan asked for protection against armed group violence.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Colombia’s grassroots leaders face a rising tide of attacks as they campaign for conflict-stricken communities’ rights. These assaults weaken the peace accord, undermine its base of popular support and expose the state’s grave difficulties in protecting communities from forces with vested interests and violent designs. Protecting these leaders, deterring their enemies and ensuring their communities’ safety should be put at the heart of security policy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare shortcomings in the implementation of the FARC peace agreement. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to continue pushing for full implementation of the 2016 accord and encouraging the government to pursue a humanitarian ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN).
In early September, demonstrations against police brutality erupted in Colombia’s capital and other cities. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson explains that reactions to the unrest have exposed the country’s political polarisation amid anxieties about the coronavirus and the 2016 FARC peace agreement.