Total Peace: Advances and Setbacks

By Carlos Cruz Mosquera for Justice for Colombia

Since coming to power in 2022, Gustavo Petro’s administration promised to resume the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement abandoned by the previous government and signed into law a new Total Peace Bill through which it seeks to reach agreements with the remaining armed groups.

Even with the welcomed reactivation and introduction of essential peacebuilding programmes, the progress at the negotiation table with the remaining armed groups has experienced several crises. Talks with the ELN and EMC guerrilla groups recently stalled in terms of concrete progress towards final agreements and have also experienced difficulties off the table.

For instance, the ELN recently announced the reinstatement of their hostage retention practices. Furthermore, on March 16, the ceasefire with the government broke down with the EMC in several regions, namely Cauca, Nariño, and Valle, after the killing of an Indigenous leader.

Talks with other armed organisations – notably with the Autodefensas Gaitainistas de Colombia (also known as the Clan del Golfo)– have also stalled due to armed confrontations with the state as well as an underlying dispute over their designation. The group has claimed political status with the view to engage in peace talks rather than having to submit themselves as a criminal organisation to the government’s proposed special judicial processes.

Despite the moderate progress of the negotiations with the armed groups thus far, there are aspects of the Total Peace Bill that evidences some measurable progress in conflict reduction. A report by the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (INDEPAZ) indicates that the ceasefire agreements with the guerrilla groups have resulted in some decrease in direct attacks on civilians and confrontations between the different armed groups.

Most notable is the reduction of actions by the ELN from August last year (with some increases from the beginning of 2024), attributable to the fact this insurgent group has been engaged in the most advanced talks with the government in this period. Furthermore, the release of hostages by both the ELN and EMC in recent months (the former announcing they had released all the hostages in their power on February 29) can be attributed to the conditions for negotiation put on them by the government.

An announcement in early June confirmed the initiation of peace talks with another group emanating from the former FARC, the Segunda Marquetalia. Those talks are due to begin on 24 June in Venezuela.

Ins spite of the ongoing complications Colombia’s Total Peace Bill has achieved some positive advances towards an integral and long-lasting peace– though it must make considerable headway in reaching agreements and setting out a concrete route for their implementation, especially considering the time restraint. Concerns about a possible return to a militarist administration and an abandonment of the peace process in 2026 exist among those betting on a negotiated solution to the conflict. Therefore, significant advances in the talks with the armed groups in the following months are essential for the future of the peacebuilding efforts in the country.