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.
Amid concerns over armed groups exploiting COVID-19 pandemic to recruit youths and extend control over territories, attacks against civilians increased, leaving dozens dead. Series of attacks targeted civilians throughout month, leaving high toll on youth, primarily in country’s south west but also in north east along Colombia-Venezuela border. Gunmen 9 Aug killed two schoolchildren in Cauca department; authorities accused Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, one of country’s main drug trafficking groups). Unidentified gunmen 11 Aug killed five youths in Cali city, Valle del Cauca department, and 15 Aug killed eight others in Samaniego town, Nariño department; National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas 17 Aug denied responsibility for latter attack and blamed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group Los Contadores. Armed groups 21-22 Aug killed at least 17 youths in three attacks in Arauca, Nariño and Cauca departments in one of deadliest 24 hours since 2016 peace deal between govt and FARC. Further attacks killed three in Capitan Largo, Norte de Santander department 25 Aug and three others in Antioquia department 28 Aug. Armed groups also pursued efforts to increase control over populations and territories. ELN 3-17 Aug implemented strict restrictions on movement in south of Bolívar department (north), ostensibly to control spread of COVID-19. Fighting between armed groups and restrictions imposed by them also confined over 17,000 people in their communities 21 July-17 Aug including 2,000 people from indigenous Embera community in Murindó municipality and 14,300 people in El Bagre municipality, both Antioquia department, as well as 1,270 people in Bojayá municipality, Chocó department (west). Number of COVID-19 cases 27 Aug reached 581,995, making Colombia seventh worst coronavirus-affected country globally. Controversy emerged after Supreme Court 4 Aug placed former President Uribe, head of ruling Democratic Centre party, under house arrest over suspected witness tampering in relation to allegations that Uribe helped found paramilitary group in 1990s; President Duque next day argued court had violated presumption of innocence. Duque 20 Aug said he had received information from foreign intelligence services that Venezuela was looking to acquire Iranian missiles and reiterated accusation that Caracas supports armed groups on Colombia-Venezuela border.
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 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 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.
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.