Over the last half century, civil conflict in Colombia has left as many as 220,000 dead, and 5.7 million displaced (CFR). In the 1960s, after a decade of political violence known as la Violencia (1948–58), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) were founded. These two insurgent groups have opposed the Colombian government and primarily seek to change the country’s economic model. Fifty years of bloody armed conflict was halted in November 2016 when, after four years of formal peace negotiations, the Colombian Government signed a final peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The accord calls for members of the FARC to demobilize, disarm, and reincorporate into society and politics.
Additionally, the accord has committed the Colombian Government to create three new institutions to form a “comprehensive system for truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition” to include a truth commission, a special unit to coordinate the search for those who disappeared during the conflict,and a “Special Jurisdiction for Peace” to administer justice for conflict-related crimes. While the violence has officially halted, the peace process still faces many challenges today, including widespread public concern that the deal offers too much leniency to perpetrators of violence. The agreement provides a historic opportunity to decrease the amount of human rights abuses, but its justice component contains serious shortcomings that risk letting war criminals escape justice.
Primary Terrorist Presence in Columbia:
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC): The FARC was originally composed of militant communists and peasant self-defense groups. It entered the political arena in September 2017 as the People’ss Alternative Revolutionary Force (also known as FARC). The group aims to change Colombia’s economic model and, historically, its aim was to install a Marxist-Leninist regime in Colombia through a violent revolution.
National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN): This insurgent group mainly operates in the rural and mountainous areas in the northeast, especially Arauca Department, and is active in the northern and southwestern regions and along the borders with Venezuela and Ecuador. The group primarily seeks to represent the rural poor against the nation’s wealthy and block the privatization of national resources. Additionally, the group has a long history of engaging in narcotics production and trafficking, extortion, and kidnappings for ransom to fund operations.
Other Groups Engaged in the Conflict:
The United States remains the most influential foreign actor in Colombia. In 2000, U.S. lawmakers approved Plan Colombia, an aid package that aimed to help the country combat guerrilla violence, strengthen its institutions, and stem drug production and trafficking. In June 2016, the U.S. House appropriated roughly $490 million in aid, with a portion of the funds dependent on Colombia reaching a peace deal.
Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Crises:
Violence associated with the conflict has forcibly displaced more than 7.7 million Colombians since 1985, generating the world’s largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) (HRW).
According to the Colombian government, more than 10,000 people, including nearly 4,000 civilians, have been killed or maimed by landmines, most of which were planted by the FARC.In June 2017, the United Nations mission in Colombia verified that the FARC had handed over its weapons and demobilized. Nevertheless, civilians continue to suffer serious abuses by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and paramilitary successor groups that emerged after a demobilization process a decade ago.
Other restrictions on Humanitarian Aid:
Since the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), over 439 human rights workers have been killed in the country by reemerging right-wing militias and left-wing guerrillas that fought during the civil war.
Columbia in Recent News:
January 21, 2019: Colombian Rebel Group Claims Responsibility for Police Bombing, Wall Street Journal
May 18, 2019: Colombia Army’s New Kill Orders Send Chills Down Ranks, New York Times
May 20, 2019: Colombian Army Denies Pushing Officers to Hike Rebel, Criminal Death Toll, Reuters