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


A recent wave of murders in the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas provides clues to the role of dissident factions of…


InSight Crime's 2022 Homicide Round-Up covers more countries than ever before, with a major expansion into nations of the Caribbean.

COLOMBIA / 19 NOV 2021

A surge in US-bound migrants has been a boon to human smuggling rings in Ecuador – in a pattern that…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.


InSight Crime’s Paraguay Election Coverage Draws Attention 

5 MAY 2023

InSight Crime looked at the various anti-organized crime policies proposed by the candidates in Paraguay’s presidential election, which was won on April 30 by Santiago Peña. Our pre-election coverage was cited…


InSight Crime Cited in OAS, CARICOM Reports

28 APR 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s work was cited nine times in a new report by the Organization of American States (OAS) titled “The Impact of Organized Crime on Women,…