The Colombian government and a leading faction of the ex-FARC mafia have begun a new round of negotiations, in what appears to be a step forward for President Gustavo Petro’s "Total Peace" policy. But in reality, the talks may produce few changes.
On September 4, the government and the Central General Staff (Estado Mayor Central - EMC) announced the results of three days of meetings held between August 31 and September 2. The EMC is the largest of the dissident groups, known as the ex-FARC mafia, which emerged after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC),
The two sides agreed to renew peace talks, implement a bilateral ceasefire, and organize humanitarian missions in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, Huila, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, and southern Bolívar. The start date for the ceasefire will be determined on September 17 and will bring an end to these confrontations.
The talks came at a difficult time as there have been five clashes between security forces and the EMC in the last month alone.
"This is a new stage of talks with the Central General Staff, characterized by starting negotiations and defining a high-level agenda for reaching a peace agreement," said Camilo González Posso, the head of the government delegation, in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
This is the government’s second attempt to establish a ceasefire with the EMC. The first was scheduled to last from January 1 to June 30, but the government suspended the ceasefire in May after four young Indigenous men were recruited and killed by the Carolina Ramírez Front in Putumayo.
Days before the latest meetings the Jaime Martínez Front, a group belonging to the EMC, claimed responsibility for an ambush in Morales, Cauca that left three police officers dead and one wounded. In the same department, more than 700 people have been affected by EMC actions -- such as attacks on the civilian population, harassment of security forces, and clashes -- in the last month, according to figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA).
InSight Crime Analysis
While a ceasefire with the EMC would be a major development for Total Peace, these latest steps will likely have limited impact on violence levels.
The government's negotiated agreements demand an end to conflict between security forces and armed groups. They do not demand any reduction in violence between criminal groups, with civilians continuously caught in the crossfire.
According to OCHA, most humanitarian emergencies and human rights violations in 2023 have been the result of clashes between armed groups. Since a previous ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) began on August 3, OCHA has reported at least 148 attacks against civilians and hundreds of people displaced in the departments of Arauca, Cauca, and Nariño due to such violence.
And the one security gain from the ceasefires is also in doubt. During the same period, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) recorded at least 14 clashes between armed groups and security forces. Eight involved the ex-FARC mafia, four were with the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia - AGC), one with the ELN, and one with an unidentified group.