Colombia will start a political negotiation with one of the largest splinter groups of the extinct FARC guerrilla, President Gustavo Petro announced this Monday, without giving further details. “A second peace process begins. A table will be established between the Government and the Central General Staff”, wrote the president on his social networks. As part of the policy of total peace, the Executive already has a table with the ELN guerrillas in motion.
The president’s message echoed the news that the Attorney General of the Republic, Francisco Barbosa, had suspended the arrest warrants against 19 members of the dissidence led by ‘Iván Mordisco’, who withdrew from the process that culminated in late 2016 with the peace agreement with the former revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, now disarmed and converted into a political party with representation in Congress. That list no longer includes the pseudonym John Mechas, a name that is problematic because he has arrest warrants for extradition purposes and is accused of having attempted an attack against then-President Iván Duque. This name provoked objections from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and was later removed from the list by the government.
The integration of dissidents has been one of the greatest challenges to total peace since the beginning. In the plural, since more than one faction withdrew –at different times– from the talks in Havana. It is an archipelago of more than 20 groups that are difficult to classify. In Colombia, six internal armed conflicts persist, and half of them involve dissident factions, according to the annual balance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
One of the great doubts of the Petro’s emblematic policy is whether the groups that defected or never accepted the previous peace process with the FARC should be considered criminal organizations whose only way out is to submit to the law or now deserve political treatment. received by the ELN. The best path is still being discussed within the Government, but Monday’s announcement clearly places the Central General Staff in the political negotiation group. In fact, that was the prosecutor’s argument for suspending the arrest warrants.
The currents of Iván Mordisco –previously led by the late Gentil Duarte, who now calls himself the Central General Staff– and Iván Márquez –Segunda Marquetalia, for the place where the FARC were born–, have consolidated themselves as the most notorious. Both were designated by the US government as terrorist organizations when it removed the FARC from its blacklist, and have fought fierce battles with each other and with other armed groups.
In the Petro era, the search for some kind of simultaneous truce with five different armed groups, announced in the new year, hinted that the paths could fork between submission and negotiation for the two major dissident groups. Most FARC ex-combatants transitioned to legality. More than 90% of the signatories to the agreement, some 13,000 former guerrillas, fulfilled their commitments. But the dissidents have destabilized security conditions in many regions, sabotaged peacebuilding efforts and threatened security guarantees for former guerrillas and their families under the accords.
Current affairs analysis and the best stories from Colombia, every week in your mailbox
register here the EL PAÍS newsletter about Colombia and receive all the important information about the current situation in the country.