Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech on December 26th. PRESIDENCY OF COLOMBIA
Gustavo Petro is doing everything he can to seek peace in Colombia. On December 31, at midnight sharp, he announced a bilateral ceasefire agreement with five armed organizations. For six months, renewable depending on the progress of negotiations, the ELN, the Second Marquetalia, the Central General Staff [ambas disidencias de las FARC], the AGC or Clan del Golfo and the Sierra Nevada Self-Defense Forces will suspend actions. “It’s a brave act. The bilateral ceasefire obliges the armed organizations and the state to respect it,” the President assured.
Camilo González Posso, director of Indepaz, says Colombia is facing an “extraordinary” event. “[El acuerdo] It will affect 80 illegal structures, including fronts and columns, affecting nearly 350 communities in Colombia. According to the most conservative calculations, more than 15,000 armed forces of these organizations are suspended in confrontational actions with public violence,” he says. in an analysis of the Petro announcement. But not everyone is equally optimistic. Although the government released a statement trying to explain how this hiring will work, which was unprecedented by participants and for its duration, many doubts remain. Former Defense Minister Gabriel Silva Luján has questioned its effectiveness. “It will only be good news if it’s not just a tactical break. For the head of state to announce a bilateral ceasefire that is only unilateral is nonsense. The state in truce and the enemy in battle mode. If there were questions, now there are serious doubts and concerns.”
The country is facing the biggest ceasefire since negotiations that ended in 2016 with the peace deal between the FARC and the government of Juan Manuel Santos. gang members and guerrillas. His government negotiates with the ELN and secures a cessation of hostilities between the Shottas and Espartanos, two mafias who have been terrorizing the port of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
According to Indepaz, at least 10,000 men will be part of the truce, which was also accepted by the country’s largest drug gang, the AGC, or Clan del Golfo, and the Sierra Nevada Self-Defense Forces. The government has stated that there will be a specific decree for each of the organizations setting the duration and terms of the termination, which will be overseen by the UN Verification Mission, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Catholic Church.
Since taking office on August 7, Petro and his government have placed “total peace” at the heart of their policies. In Congress, they managed to push through a law that would allow them to negotiate with armed groups, even if they are not political and make a living from illegal economies such as drug trafficking or mining. The decree also allows negotiations with the members of the FARC who took up arms after the signing of the 2016 peace agreement: “There are structures which, if not incorporated, will leave half the country in a bloodbath”, the government assured at the time that it was defending its proposal before Parliament.
For León Valencia, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares), Petro’s announced dismissal is a “prank of opinion and the expression with facts that it is possible to achieve total peace”. “It bears the stamp of what the M19 did when proposing declarations of peace with political facts and opinion. When a country wakes up to a new year with a peace process with a number of organizations so diverse, there is an impact,” the analyst said on Radio Caracol this Sunday. “The word they use is bilateral adjustment, it’s not just an adjustment between the state and the groups, it’s a relief for civilians. The war in Colombia is very limited, there are 11 areas where there is the greatest armed conflict, violence and illegal drug enclaves. Therefore, these areas need to be prioritized by regulators,” he explained.
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In 2022 there were 179 killings of society leaders, 94 massacres and more than 70,000 people displaced by violence. In the announcement, the government said the bilateral hiring was in response to the outcry from communities in areas most at risk of violence.
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