HomeNewsCan Colombia's Gustavo Petro Overcome Violent Challenge to 'Total Peace'?

Can Colombia's Gustavo Petro Overcome Violent Challenge to 'Total Peace'?


With less than a month in office, Colombia's President Gustavo Petro is facing the first test of his security policy as the country's criminal groups watch his reaction to the murders of seven police officers.

A group of eight police officers were attacked with explosives and rifle fire on September 2 as they traveled along a rural road in Neiva, a municipality in the southern department of Huila. Seven officers were killed, according to a press release from Colombia's Ministry of Defense. The identity of the assailants remains unknown.

SEE ALSO: Colombia Profile

This was the deadliest attack on Colombia's security forces since Gustavo Petro took office on August 7.

"These facts represent a clear sabotage of Total Peace," Petro wrote on Twitter, referring to his Total Peace (Paz Total) proposal, a mainstay of his policy plans, in which he has offered to begin peace talks with almost two dozen armed groups in Colombia. As part of this goodwill effort, he has suspended arrest warrants for some wanted criminals and vowed to suspend extraditions to the United States for any who willingly reach a deal with the government.

A number of dissident groups formerly belonging to the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), also known as the ex-FARC Mafia, are present in Huila. Speaking to the press at the site of the attack, Petro warned that the main suspects were the Dagoberto Ramos Mobile Column, an important former FARC front which has been expanding its territory in recent months.

InSight Crime Analysis

The attack that cost the lives of seven police officers in Huila was the first direct challenge to Petro's peace plans. It comes at a time of particular vulnerability for the still-nascent peace process under the new president.

While peace talks appear set to restart with Colombia's largest criminal threat, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), it is far from certain how other groups will react.

One other major criminal group is divided over the issue of peace. The Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan (Clan del Golfo) and the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia - AGC), have seen dissent within their ranks with several factions rejecting the overall leadership's willingness to talk.

SEE ALSO: Five Security Challenges for Gustavo Petro, Colombia's Next President

The ex-FARC Mafia present their own set of challenges. With most of their traditional leadership decimated over the last year, this loosely connected network is made up of more than 30 different groups. These armed gangs, which all dissented from the FARC peace process in 2016, carry a distrust of the government. The killings in Huila, as well as a previous attack on a Petro security team in Norte de Santander, shows that much of the ex-FARC Mafia may have no interest in negotiating.  

How Petro reacts to these challenges, whether with force or restraint, could decide the future of Total Peace.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BOLIVIA / 13 AUG 2021

The US Coast Guard unloaded 27 tons of cocaine after a three-month operation in the Pacific and Caribbean, a massive…

COLOMBIA / 29 OCT 2021

The fascination with “narco-culture” has taken over the entertainment and media industries: documentaries, TV shows, movies, podcasts, even a dedicated…

COLOMBIA / 26 MAY 2022

Until his death, Gentil Duarte was the most-wanted man in Colombia and one of South America's leading drug traffickers.

About InSight Crime


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…