Colombian government talks peace with FARC dissidents

In the past one and a half months in office, the government of progressive President Gustavo Petro has taken major steps towards achieving peace in Colombia

September 20, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
On September 18, the High Commissioner for Peace of the Colombian national government met with the representatives of the dissidents of the demobilized FARC-EP guerilla group to assess the possibility of initiating dialogues to achieve “Total Peace” in the country. (Photo: Gustavo Petro/Twitter)

On Sunday, September 18, High Commissioner for Peace of the Colombian national government, Iván Danilo Rueda, met with representatives of dissidents in the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) guerilla group. The meeting took place in the Caquetá department, and was also attended by the representatives of the Norwegian government and the UN Mission II in Colombia. The purpose of the meeting was to assess the possibility of initiating dialogues to forward the goals of President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” policy.

According to a statement issued by Colombian authorities, “both parties expressed their willingness and need for these dialogues to be set by a bilateral ceasefire, the execution of which will be verified (in the near future).”

During the meeting, High Commissioner Danilo Rueda explained to FARC dissidents the details of Total Peace, its constitutional, legal and territorial framework, and the criteria for building trust for the success of the process.

The dissident group stated that for them Total Peace means “the eradication of the causes that generate the social and armed conflict.” The group praised Petro’s intentions and efforts to achieve peace, and announced that they would consult all their structures regarding the peace negotiations.

Both parties agreed to issue a joint declaration on a bilateral ceasefire and begin dialoguing in the presence of neutral third parties as guarantors of the process.

President Petro, through Twitter, confirmed that his government had reopened peace talks with FARC dissidents. He posted two pictures, in which High Commissioner Danilo Rueda was seen talking with four dissident combatants, captioning the photos with “a dialogue has begun.”

Iván Márquez and Hernán Darío Velásquez are the primary leaders of the FARC dissidents. These two are the commanders who returned to armed struggle in August 2019, following the violation of the 2016 Havana Peace Agreements by the government of former conservative President Iván Duque.

During his election campaign, Petro vowed to combat violence and consolidate peace. Following his inauguration on August 7, he reiterated his government’s commitment to achieve total peace. In this regard, he pledged to fully comply with the 2016 peace agreements, resume peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), and begin negotiating peace agreements with all illegal paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups willing to submit to justice.

In his past one and a half months in office, Petro has taken some major steps towards accomplishing these goals. On August 8, the head of state announced the resumption of negotiations with the ELN. On August 11, a delegation of the Colombian government, headed by Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva Durán, visited Cuba to establish contact with the leadership of the ELN in order to advance towards peace negotiations. On August 20, President Petro suspended arrest and extradition orders against members of the ELN to advance this dialogue. At the same time, he confirmed the restitution of the negotiation protocols with the ELN that had been signed with the government of former president Juan Manuel Santos.

Additionally, on August 20, Petro’s government launched the first Unified Command Post for Life (PMU) in the municipality of Caldono, in the Cauca department. The PMU aims to achieve total peace and protect the population affected by violence across the country, especially social leaders, human rights activists, environmentalists and former combatants of the demobilized FARC guerilla group.