President Gustavo Petro announces a ceasefire with the five largest armed groups to support peace talks.

The Colombian government has agreed to a six-month ceasefire with the five largest armed groups operating in the country, President Gustavo Petro announced on New Year’s Eve.

Petro, the country’s first leftist president, has vowed to end the Andean nation’s internal conflict, which has been going on for nearly six decades and has killed at least 450,000 people between 1985 and 2018.

“This is a bold act,” Petro wrote on Twitter. “The bilateral ceasefire obliges the armed organizations and the state to respect it. There will be a national and international verification mechanism.”

The groups include the left-wing armed group the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident groups led by former members of the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central.

The ceasefire was the main goal of Petro’s “total peace” policy, aimed at ending the armed conflict in the country, which despite the dissolution of the FARC in 2017.

According to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), an independent think tank, the armed groups still active in Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, are embroiled in deadly disputes over revenue from drug trafficking and other illicit businesses.

Despite government efforts to negotiate with Colombia’s various armed groups, including more than 10,000 combatants in total, it has so far failed to contain the spiral of violence engulfing the country. Indepaz recorded nearly 100 massacres last year.

The ELN, the last recognized rebel group in the country, has been negotiating with the government since November.

The Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central groups – FARC splinter groups that broke the 2016 peace pact – have held separate talks with the government.

AGC, the country’s largest drug ring, is made up of the remnants of far-right paramilitaries demobilized in the early 2000s.

The government is offering the groups “benevolent treatment from a judicial point of view” to the armed actors “in exchange for a surrender of assets, a dismantling of these organizations and the possibility that they stop engaging in these illegal economies,” Senator Ivan Cepeda recently told news agency AFP.

Some dissidents refused to lay down arms alongside their FARC comrades six years ago, when the fearsome rebel group signed the Bogota deal to end more than five decades of conflict.

Colombia has suffered more than 50 years of armed conflict between the state and various groups of left-wing fighters, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers. According to Indepaz, there are currently some 90 political and criminal groups active in the country.



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