Six-decade conflict in Colombia to be addressed through bilateral ceasefire

Colombia’s government has agreed to a six-month ceasefire with the five largest armed groups operating in the country, President Gustavo Petro announced on New Year’s Eve.

The ceasefire went into effect immediately, and the government has pledged to respect it, with a national and international verification mechanism in place to ensure compliance. Among the groups included in the ceasefire are the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) as well as dissident groups run by former members of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central.

The ceasefire is the main objective of Petro’s “total peace” policy, which aims to end the country’s internal conflict that has persisted for almost six decades and killed at least 450,000 people between 1985 and 2018.

Colombia agrees ceasefire with five largest armed groups

The armed groups operating in Colombia, which is the world’s largest producer of cocaine, are involved in deadly disputes over drug trafficking revenues and other illegal businesses, according to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), an independent think-tank.

Despite the government’s efforts to negotiate with the various armed groups in the country, which include a combined total of more than 10,000 fighters, it has so far failed to contain the spiral of violence engulfing the country. Indepaz recorded nearly 100 massacres in the country last year.

The ELN, the last recognized rebel group in the country, has been negotiating with the government since November. The Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central groups, which are splinter factions of FARC that broke from the 2016 peace pact, have held separate talks with the government.

The government is offering the groups “benevolent treatment from the judicial point of view” in exchange for a surrender of assets, a dismantling of the organizations, and a cessation of illicit activities.

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