Photo: Raul Arboleda Agence France-Presse Colombian President Gustavo Petro has pledged to end six decades of armed conflict in the country through dialogue and has since been negotiating with most of the country's organizations.
France Media Agency in Bogota
February 9, 2024
The Colombian government and the FARC dissident faction that took up arms after the signing of the historic 2016 peace agreement announced new peace talks on Friday, a new step in the policy of “total peace” promised by President Gustavo Petro.
An official document signed by both parties was made public on Friday. This eleven-point text announces the start of a “process of socio-political dialogues which should lead to the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the armed rebel organization Segunda Marquetalia”, created by its leader Ivan Márquez in 2019, after his return to hiding.
The parties also committed to “immediately develop prior agreements for the de-escalation of the conflict and the implementation of transformations for the social and environmental construction of the territory”, continues the text.
President Petro, the first left-wing man to come to power in Colombia in 2022 and himself a former member in his youth of a far-left guerrilla group (the M-19), is committed to ending six decades of armed conflict through dialogue and has since negotiated with most of the country's organizations.
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In the name of this policy of “total peace”, Mr. Petro has already started negotiations with the FARC dissidence of Ivan Mordisco, better known as the Central Staff (EMC) , and itself a rival of the Segunda Marquetalia.
Discussions are also underway with the ELN (Guevarist National Liberation Army), paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. Two fragile temporary ceasefires are in force with the EMC and the ELN.
On Friday, the ELN's “Western War Front”, active in the west of the country, banned people from moving into areas under its control in the predominantly Afro-Colombian department of Choco, allegedly for their own security and “integrity”.
The group justified its action by citing the presence of “paramilitaries allied with the public force” in these areas.
“New Progress” ?
President Petro's policy, however, faces numerous pitfalls and is severely criticized by the right-wing opposition, while these armed groups, linked to drug trafficking, have increased their actions to increase their territorial influence.
Currently visiting Colombia, the UN Security Council welcomed the announcement of the recent ceasefire with the ELN for six months. He also “expressed his hope for further progress in the dialogue” with the EMC dissent, and spoke of a “broadening in this sense of the mandate of the verification mission” of the UN, which already monitors the implementation of the 2016 agreement.
But until now, the Segunda Marquetalia, active on the borders with Venezuela (east) and Ecuador (southwest) and which has 1,663 members, according to the army, is considered the hard wing of the dissidents.
The EMC dissidence counts nearly 3,500 men who consider themselves the true heirs of the FARC, with several “Fronts” operating mainly in the Amazon, on the Pacific coast and on the border Venezuelan.
Mr Marquez's return to arms in 2019 (he had been one of the main peace negotiators in Havana in 2016) dealt a severe blow to the historic process which allowed some 7,000 FARC fighters to reintegrate in civil life. However, the agreement held, with the resolute support of the international community, and despite the reluctance, and sometimes even the ill will, of the conservative right in power until 2022.
Nearly 350 ex-FARC combatants reintegrated into civilian life have since been assassinated, notably by dissidents and rival armed groups.
Since Mr. Marquez's return to the maquis, several leaders of the Segunda Marquetalia have been eliminated in circumstances that remain obscure, such as Jesus Santrich, “El Paisa” and “Romana”, killed in Venezuela.
According to the press, Mr. Marquez himself was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2022. And in 2023, rumors, denied by the government, had put forward the hypothesis of his dead.
Independent studies indicate that the Segunda Marquetalia, pejoratively nicknamed “narcotalia” by the outgoing government of conservative President Ivan Duque (2018-2022), is in conflict with other armed groups for control of drug trafficking routes.