Peace in Colombia

Update 2: The Colombian government and the Farc rebel group signed a new peace deal on November 24, 2016. The new deal is not subject to voter approval.

Update 1: On October 2nd, voters in Colombia rejected the peace deal with Farc rebels described below with 50.2% voting against it. For now, the parties are still negotiating to revive the deal in a new form.

The 52 year Civil War in Colombia appears to have come to an end. The commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced this week that his fighters would cease hostilities beginning at 12.01 am on Monday, August 29th as a result of a peace deal reached with the Colombian government. FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, made his announcement in Havana, Cuba where rebel and government negotiators talked for four years to reach the deal on ending one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.

colombia-negoitationsColombian president Juan Manuel Santos made a similar announcement on Friday, August 26th saying the military would halt attacks on the FARC also beginning on Monday, August 29th.

The origin of the armed conflict in Colombia goes back to 1920 with agrarian disputes over the Sumapaz and Tequendama regions. Peasants at the time fought over ownership of coffee lands which caused the liberals and conservative parties to take sides in the conflict, worsening it.

The current Colombian conflict began approximately 1964 and continued as a low-intensity asymmetric war between the Colombian government, paramilitary groups, crime syndicates and left-wing guerrillas such as the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), fighting each other to increase their influence in Colombian territory.

It is historically rooted in the conflict known as La Violencia, which was triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, and in the aftermath of United States-backed strong anti-communist repression in rural Colombia in the 1960s that led liberal and communist militants to re-organize into FARC.

The Recent Road to Peace in Colombia

When Juan Manuel Santos was elected president of Colombia in August 2010, he promised to "continue the armed offensive" against rebel movements. In the month after his inauguration, FARC and ELN killed roughly 50 soldiers and policemen in attacks all over Colombia. By the end of 2010, it became increasingly clear that "neo-paramilitary groups", referred to as "criminal groups" (BACRIM) by the government, had become an increasing threat to national security Colombian countryside.

colombia-flag-largeBy early 2011, Colombian authorities and news media reported that the FARC and the clandestine sister groups have partly shifted strategy from guerrilla warfare to "a war of militias", meaning that they are increasingly operating in civilian clothes while hiding with sympathizers in the civilian population. In early January 2011, the Colombian army said that the FARC has some 18,000 members, with 9,000 of those forming part of the militias.

In 2011, the Colombian Congress issued a statement claiming that the FARC has a "strong presence" in roughly one third of Colombia, while their attacks against security forces "have continued to rise" throughout 2010 and 2011.

In 2012, the Colombia Military launched The Espada de Honor War Plan, an aggressive counterinsurgency strategies that aims to dismantle FARC's structure, crippling them both militarily and financially. The plan targeted FARC leadership.

On July 20, 2013, as peace talks were making progress, two rebel attacks on government positions killed 19 soldiers and an unspecified number of combatants. It was the deadliest day since peace talks began in November 2012. On 15 December 2014, 9 FARC guerrillas were killed in the aftermath airstrikes conducted by the Colombian air force in the Meta province.

On 23 June 2016, the Colombian government and FARC agreed to a ceasefire. A "final, full and definitive accord" was agreed to on August 24, 2016.

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