MADRID, Jan. 2 (.) –
As of January 1, 2023 and until at least June 30, a bilateral ceasefire between the Government and five armed groups has begun in Colombia, within the framework of the aspirations of President Gustavo Petro to achieve “total peace”. , an initiative that contrasts with the stagnation of the 2016 peace agreements and the paralysis of any type of dialogue during the term of Iván Duque.
Within the framework of the new round of talks with the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), four other armed organizations expressed their interest in starting some kind of negotiation with the Colombian State, which put as an initial condition and gesture of goodwill the cessation of hostilities.
Thus, in addition to the ELN, two dissidences of the disappeared FARC –Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central– and the narco-paramilitary groups of the Clan del Golfo and the Self-Defense Forces of the Sierra Nevada, announced a unilateral ceasefire at the end of December, to which the Government joined in the New Year.
“This is a bold act. The bilateral ceasefire obliges the armed organizations and the State to respect it,” Petro said after announcing the cessation of hostilities, which could be extended, he said, beyond June 30, as progress is made. the negotiations. “Total peace will be a reality,” he confided.
Petro’s announcement is part of the great commitment of his government, that of reaching peace with the armed groups that have been influencing the political, economic, social and humanitarian life of Colombia for more than half a century and that have left more than 260,000 dead, tens of thousands of disappeared, seven million displaced, rapes, kidnappings and countless personal tragedies.
The total peace of Petro was sanctioned in the so-called Law 418, which establishes its legal framework and with which a project that on the one hand seeks to negotiate with those organizations of a political nature, such as the ELN and in its day the FARC, but in turn subjecting others, in the case of paramilitaries and drug trafficking groups, to the Colombian Justice.
NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY (ELN)
The restart of the stalled negotiations with the ELN was one of Petro’s first announcements with an international impact, after they had been interrupted by the Duque government in response to a guerrilla attack in January 2019 at a training academy. Police who left about twenty dead.
The ELN is the last guerrilla group in Colombia after the dissolution of the FARC in the 2016 peace agreements. Born in the 1960s and with clear influences on the Cuban Revolution and other liberal guerrillas, it currently has about 5,400 men and women on at least eight war fronts, with a presence in 180 towns, but above all in those of Arauca, Norte de Santander and Chocó.
They have focused their operations on kidnapping, extortion and attacks on the oil infrastructure, although later, and after some initial resistance, they also expanded their field of action to drug trafficking.
Eliécer Herlinto Chamorro, alias ‘Antonio García’, has been head of the Central Command and main leader since June 2021. However, given the lack of a hierarchical structure –his great difference with the FARC– leaves some doubts about his cohesion in these negotiations, according to Colombian media.
The first of these is the Second Marquetalia of Luciano Marín, alias ‘Iván Márquez’, who along with other leaders who were dissatisfied with how the Havana peace accords were being applied, such as the late Seuxis Pausias Hernández, alias ‘Jesús Santrich’ ; Henry Castellanos, aka ‘Romaña’; and Hernán Darío Velásquez, known as ‘El Paisa’, decided to resume the armed struggle in August 2019.
Due to their weakening, all their leaders except ‘Iván Márquez’ have been falling into actions of the Army or other local groups. The leader has sought to get closer to the Petro government, especially after an attack almost ended his life.
Despite the fact that it has been losing ground due to the push of other dissidences, such as those that are part of the Central General Staff, it is estimated that it has a presence in at least five municipalities, including those that belong to the departments of Nariño, Amazonas and Antioquia. .
The other is the Central General Staff, whose main difference with the Second Marquetalia is that its members disassociated themselves from the Havana agreements before they were signed. This is the largest dissidence, now led by Néstor Vera Fernández, alias ‘Iván Mordisco’, after the death of Miguel Botache Santillana, alias ‘Gentil Duarte’.
With at least twenty allied structures, although their structure or internal cohesion is not clear, from the beginning they have defended that they are the original FARC, appealing to the imaginary of this guerrilla and rejecting that they are a dissidence since they did not join the agreements of 2016.
The Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), as this narco-paramilitary organization prefers to be referred to, were born from the already dissolved United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which accepted the plans of former President Álvaro Uribe to demobilize this type of armed group. .
Its presence is nationwide, although it has been weakening in recent years, according to Insight Crime, a journalism and investigative organization specializing in this type of conflict in Latin America.
The last blow received was the media arrest in October 2021 of its main boss and one of the most wanted criminals in Colombia, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias ‘Otoniel’, who has been extradited to the United States.
In retaliation for that arrest, the group, now under the command of Jovanis de Jesús Ávila Villadiego, alias ‘Chiquito Malo’, has been carrying out several armed strikes that affected a dozen departments and left around twenty dead.
CONQUEROR SELF-DEFENSE OF THE SIERRA NEVADA (ACSN)
Considered themselves the oldest peasant self-defense groups in Colombia, their direct origin is in the extinct Tayrona Resistance Bloc, demobilized in February 2006, and whose imprisoned leader Hernán Giraldo Serna, known as ‘El Patrón de la Sierra’ and described as the biggest sexual predator of the conflict, asked Petro at the end of December to collaborate in total peace.
After various divisions and disputes with other similar groups, such as the Clan del Golfo or ‘Los Rastrojos’, and after the death of their leader, Jesús María Aguirre Gallego, alias ‘Chucho Mercancía’, in June 2019 It was renamed as they are currently known.