The Colombian government and the dissidents of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are evaluating the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire after holding a meeting in the south of the country.
It was an exploratory meeting to study the start of peace talks with the FARC dissidents, who did not accept the peace process that the former guerrilla signed in 2016 with the Colombian State to end five decades of armed conflict.
A first step in a second rapprochement should be the declaration -as soon as possible- of a bilateral ceasefire agreed by the parties, thus avoiding more pain in the Colombian family, the dissident delegates indicated in a joint statement with government representatives. released on Sunday.
Dissident delegates, the government’s High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, and a representative from the Norwegian government and another from the UN Mission as international observers were present at the meeting.
Camilo González Posso, president of the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, told The Associated Press that achieving a bilateral ceasefire could take even years and in the meantime he would recommend betting on a unilateral ceasefire by FARC dissidents. in which they suspend the attacks on the civilian population, the murders and the recruitment of minors.
In Colombia, the violence did not end with the peace agreement signed in 2016 with the FARC. At least 136 human rights defenders have been murdered between January and August of this year, an increase of 27 cases compared to the previous year, according to the state Ombudsman’s Office.
The current government of Gustavo Petro has proposed to de-escalate the violence by seeking dialogue and proposing bringing illegal armed groups to justice, in an ambitious plan that baptized total peace.
Although it is still a proposal and it has not been defined how and when a bilateral ceasefire could take place, some sectors in Colombia have questioned it. Hernán Cadavid, a congressman from the opposition Democratic Center party, told the AP that this is a great risk because, according to him, it would paralyze the actions of the public forces in the country in the face of the actions of the other armed groups.
Given the criticism his government has received for rapprochement with dissidents, Petro defended the initiative, saying that the peace processes in Colombia have always been criticized. I think that what needs to be criticized the most is the war. If we manage to get all the people in Colombia to abandon the path of arms, we will be building a great nation, he said the day before from New York, where he will attend the United Nations General Assembly.
González Posso warns that not all the dissidents were present at the weekend’s exploratory meeting. He refers to the complexity involved in starting negotiations with the FARC dissidents, which are actually more than 20 different factions scattered throughout the country that do not always respond to the same chain of command, as the former guerrilla group did for decades. of the FARC.
In addition, a debate has arisen about the political recognition that the current government could give to the dissident groups that it has called FARC-EP (as the extinct guerrilla was originally called). This political status was denied by former President Iván Duque (2018-2022) who called them Residual Organized Armed Groups.
Complying with the peace agreement requires being forceful with dissidence. It is very good that the government seeks to implement a policy of total peace, but for it to be successful, it must think carefully with whom it negotiates and in what form, Juan Pappier, a researcher at the organization’s Division of the Americas, told the AP. Human Rights Watch. When the agreement was negotiated, it was clear that those who did not comply would be subject to the full weight of the law. Today it would be counterproductive to start a political negotiation with them, he added.
The Petro government has also initiated rapprochements with other dissident factions such as the Second Marquetalia led by alias Iván Márquez, who was the second in command of the extinct FARC and one of the negotiators of the 2016 agreement.
From Cuba, delegates from the guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) and spokesmen for the Petro government expressed in August their willingness to resume the peace talks that were definitively suspended in 2016, after an attack on a police school in Bogotá. in which 22 people died.