In November 2016, the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war, yet peace remains elusive as new armed groups have stepped in to compete for territory and illicit businesses. To defend the gains of the peace process and stop a new cycle of conflict from taking hold, the state must redress the inequality underlying social discontent, make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN, and design security strategies that put protecting people first. 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 new patterns of armed conflict to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, says he will work to bring “total peace” to the countryside, including areas roiled by violent competition among criminal and other armed groups. This task will require significant changes to military approaches devised for fighting the insurgencies of the past.
Violence ran high as armed and criminal groups sought to expand territorial control ahead of “Total Peace” talks with authorities; border with Venezuela reopened after three-year closure.
Govt worked toward dialogue with armed groups. Govt pursued “Total Peace” plan aimed at reviving negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) and demobilising other armed groups. Notably, after high-level govt delegation visited Cuba in Aug to meet ELN negotiating team, Venezuela 13 Sept agreed to act as guarantor in possible forthcoming talks. ELN 5 Sept however raised questions about govt’s peace plan, saying it was wrong to consider talks with criminal organisations since they exercise violence for “profit and capital accumulation” rather than political objectives. Meanwhile, govt 28 Sept said at least ten armed groups, including Gulf Clan and two Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups, agreed to unilateral ceasefires.
Criminal and armed groups stepped up violent attacks over territorial control. Dramatic violence occurred across country, including in cities where delinquent and criminal organisations who have shown interest in peace talks operate. Notably, violence accelerated in Barranquilla city on Atlantic coast (north), key drug trafficking route where at least two criminal groups battle for territory, leaving six dead 12 Sept. Groups also launched attacks on security forces; notably, FARC dissidents 2 Sept killed seven police officers in Huila department (south). Land invasions increased during month in ten departments, with cases of poor farmers taking over private land; Ombudsman’s Office 22 Sept said most invasions were in response to expectations among communities that govt will redistribute land, though at least 13 cases have seen armed groups vying for territorial control. Partly in response to violence, govt 3 Sept established “unified command centres” in 65 municipalities to increase coordination between local authorities and security forces to maintain order and protect “social leaders, human rights defenders and peace signers”.
Shared border with Venezuela reopened after three-year closure. After govt restored diplomatic relations with Caracas late Aug, Colombia-Venezuela border 26 Sept reopened, paving way for better regional coordination to address proliferation of criminal groups.
From a humanitarian, security and economic perspective the closure of the border [between Colombia and Venezuela] has been a disaster. It’s pushed migrants in the directi...
[The] strategy of fear, hate and stigmatization towards the left [in Colombia] no longer works as a policy to win voters.
The main [concern for voters in Colombia] is just sort of bread and butter economic issues, access to education, services... inequality.
The security strategy [of the Colombian government] of focusing on high profile targets does not guarantee security for civilians.
Coca is really just the currency of Colombia’s ongoing conflict.
Today, the commitment of ex-combatants [of FARC] to remaining in civilian life is visible across Colombia and deserves the full support of the international community.
Crisis Group experts talk in this Twitter Space about what can be done to better protect Venezuelan migrants fleeing to Colombia from exploitation by criminal armed groups. The discussion was hosted by Bram Ebus, consultant for Latin America, Mariano de Alba, our senior advocacy advisor for Latin America and Glaeldys González, Giustra fellow for Latin America.
In recent years, Venezuelans have streamed into Colombia looking for work and respite from their country’s socio-economic meltdown. But dangers also await them, including the clutches of organised crime. Bogotá’s change of government is a chance to reset policy to keep the migrants safer.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to experts Beth Dickinson and Renata Segura about Colombia’s presidential election, as the country heads into a run-off between two anti-establishment candidates: leftist Gustavo Petro and a millionaire often likened to Donald Trump, Rodolfo Hernández.
Colombians head to the polls on 29 May for the first round of a presidential contest that will starkly pose left against right. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson lays out the stakes for the country’s future stability.
Members of Colombia's longest-running insurgency face new challenges since the 2016 peace accord. In this photo essay, part of a larger project on deadly violence in Latin America, one former fighter tells his story to Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.
Armed conflict in Colombia is escalating in rural areas, with some communities reporting higher levels of violence or coercion than before the peace agreement. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to encourage the implementation of the 2016 peace accord and help Colombia find substitutes for the coca crop.