The Colombian government’s Total Peace strategy – which promotes dialogue with armed groups as a means of ending violent conflict in the country – has taken a positive step forward with the initiation of a bilateral ceasefire between the state and one of the country’s largest groups of so-called ‘dissidents’, the Estado Mayor Central (EMC).
The ceasefire will run across all national territory for an initial three-month period, from midnight on 16 October until 15 January 2024. ‘The suspension of offensive military operations and special operations of the National Police against the members of the Estado Mayor Central of the FARC-EP is ordered,’ President Gustavo Petro said in a statement posted on the presidential website.
On Monday 16 October, at a special event in Tibú, Norte de Santander, the two sides signed a ceasefire agreement which they had reached eight days earlier in the same location. According to the High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, ‘it is an agreement for respect for the civilian population and the implementation of the bilateral, temporary, national ceasefire with territorial impact between the Government and the EMC.’
Under the command of former guerrilla Iván Mordisco, the EMC contains FARC guerrillas who never entered the peace process that saw the FARC reform as a political party and over 13,500 members transition to civilian society. It has expanded in size to establish a presence in a number of regions.
This contrasts with the other principal ‘dissident’ group, the Segunda Marquetalia, led by FARC peace negotiator Iván Márquez, who entered the peace process but subsequently left his congressional seat – occupied by former guerrillas under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement – following judicial targeting of his close ally Jesús Santrich.
Stated core components of the ceasefire are to respect the lives, rights and liberties of the civilian population, as well as the environment; to promote education and civil society participation in peacebuilding; to suspend military operations and violent confrontation; create conditions for agreements to be met; and ensure the free development of regional elections scheduled for 29 October.
The ceasefire provides further vindication for President Petro’s commitment to the Total Peace policy, which is backed by the United Nations, a number of foreign governments and social organisations including trade unions, human rights groups and conflict victims. The government is currently in talks or preliminary talks with several other armed groups, including the country’s largest guerrilla movement, the National Liberation Army, and the Segunda Marquetalia, as well as paramilitary-successor groups with ties to drugs trafficking.