Colombia secures ceasefire with guerrilla groups: ‘Total peace will be a reality’

President Gustavo Petro made the announcement on Twitter, calling it a ‘bold act’ as five armed organizations signed up to an accord running until June 30, 2023

The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, on December 18.
The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, on December 18.PRESIDENCIA DE COLOMBIA

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has achieved that which appeared to be impossible: a bilateral ceasefire agreement with five armed groups for a period of six months. Petro made the announcement on his Twitter account and stated the five paramilitary organizations that had signed up to the accord are the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Segunda Marquetalia and the Central General Staff, both dissident groups of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (also known as the Gulf Clan) and the Self-Defense Forces of the Sierra Nevada.

“This is a bold act. The bilateral ceasefire obliges the armed organizations and the state to respect it. There will be a national and international verification mechanism,” Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla, wrote. “Total peace will be a reality.” In making the announcement, the government said it had received letters from civil society, the Church and community organizations asking for violence to be brought to a halt.

In a statement issued after Petro’s announcement, the government provided further details of the agreement. “The objective of this ceasefire will be the suspension of the humanitarian effect on the ethnic-territorial and peasant communities, and the nation in general, and the suspension of offensive actions and the avoidance of armed incidents between the Armed Forces of Colombia and the illegal organizations with which this ceasefire was agreed.”

The government has announced that it will issue a specific decree for each of the organizations involved in the agreement, which will determine the duration and conditions of the ceasefire, which is scheduled to be in force until June 30, 2023, which the option of extensions depending on how negotiations progress. The process will be monitored nationally and internationally by the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (OEA/MAPP), the Ombudsman’s Office and the Catholic Church.

The ELN had been observing a nine-day unilateral ceasefire during the Christmas period, which was due to expire on January 2. After Petro’s announcement, the guerrilla organization will extend that ceasefire by a further six months. The ELN is currently involved in a negotiation process with the Colombian authorities and the group’s decision to sign up to the pact provides another indication that on this occasion it is committed to a lasting resolution.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the UN representative in Colombia, welcomed the government’s announcement and issued a message of support. “The United Nations supports all efforts aimed at reducing violence in the territories, protecting the communities affected by the conflict and building peace in Colombia.”

Colombia’s internal battle against guerrilla groups has run for almost six decades and resulted in some 450,000 deaths between 1985 and 2018, as cited by Reuters. According to Colombian NGO Indepaz, 94 massacres took place in Colombia during 2022 with 189 social leaders and 42 peace signatories among those killed.

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