Armed conflict in Colombia could heat up in 2020 as tensions rise. According to Reuters, there is a growing fear about the rising possibility of bombings in cities if dissidents in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continue to pressure the government into a new deal. An original peace deal was struck in 2016, but lately, FARC has been developing plans to pressure the government into making a new deal. An expert mediator said he feared the situation could turn violent on Monday, 13th of January.
“It’s a big risk because [the dissidents] have said that there won’t be pitched battles but rather urban warfare. Well, if there are no battles, there will be bombings in urban areas,” said Henry Acosta, an economist who tried to bring FARC and the Colombian government together for over a decade for peace talks. Acosta also added that he fears another surge in conflict as the rebels who rejected demobilization push for reform. These rebels want reform that they believe will bring political, economic, and social change to the country. “There are different communications that say in 2020 [we] will see the start of the operations that they are announcing,” Acosta stated, thinking of the unfortunately slow pace of the reintegration of around 13,000 former FARC members back into Colombian society.
“Colombia is very close to having a second war or a second conflict,” said a peace facilitator. The facilitator also added that many of the attacks would target properties of politicians or state-run businesses. Acosta emphasized the need to build bridges between the Colombian government and the rebels, calling on them to start negotiations in the hopes of avoiding an escalation to confrontation. He said, “There is no need to start spilling blood to know that you need to sit and negotiate. Every drop of blood spilled is needless. It is advisable and necessary for the state and the leadership of this new insurgency sit down and negotiate.”
The path to reach peace talks in 2016 was long and arduous. Henry Acosta spent more than ten years in Colombia trying to bring the rebels and the government together to form a peace deal. Now, barely four years later, Acosta is still trying to ensure peace in the region. The situation seems a little more out of his hands this time as many of the rebels currently threatening violence were not happy with the deal that was struck in 2016 and the government seems to feel they already compromised too much four years ago.
The FARC was founded in 1964 with the aim to foster anti-imperial sentiments in Colombia. Around 2006-2007, there was a huge movement by the FARC to strengthen their forces. Many of the FARC attacks were acts of terrorism and the organization was funded largely by kidnapping and ransom demands. Throughout the years, the FARC showed increasing signs of fatigue but still managed small scale attacks. In June of 2016, FARC and the Colombian President, Juan Miguel Santos, signed a ceasefire agreement in Havana. This historic ceasefire ended a conflict that was over 50 years old. A year later, in June of 2017, the group disarmed, giving their weapons over to the United Nations. One month after the disarmament, FARC announced its transformation into a legal political party in Colombia, Common Alternative Revolutionary Force. This transition was in accordance with their peace deal. However, a smaller number of rebels from FARC, around 2,000-2,500, still operate under FARC’s original mission, though on a much smaller scale; additionally, a number of former FARC leaders announced their return to the rebel group in August of 2019, stating that the Colombian government had broken the peace agreement.
Prior to 2019, the peace agreement seemed to be working. However, things have become increasingly unstable since some leaders renounced the peace agreement and went back to armed combat. Though the armed group remains small, FARC is increasing the tensions between their group and the Colombian government by insisting that they did not hold up their end of the 2016 peace agreement, something the government denies. According to Reuters, commanders of the rebels have also announced coordination efforts with guerrillas from the National Liberation Army, a revolutionary left-wing group in Colombia. The fear that this combined effort could mean increased danger and violence in Colombia seems plausible and grounded. However, it is still possible to still remain hopeful that additional peace talks, which appear to be the only way to prevent the violence, will be reached.
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