Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos opted for grandiloquence on June 23 in Paris, France, declaring the end of the Colombian guerrilla group with which his government signed a peace deal last year. In Colombia, however, many doubts about the process remain, especially in remote interior areas where the guerrillas had replaced the state.
Santos announced the final disarmament of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), projected to culminate at the end of June, saying that “the most powerful and oldest guerrilla group ceases to exist,” according to El Tiempo.
On June 23, the Colombian government announced that the guerrillas had already turned over 60 percent of their weapons, and that 100 percent were expected to be delivered on June 27. From Paris, where he is on an official visit, Santos referred to those dates to talk about the ultimate end of the FARC.
These announcements came after Santos had to accept that the initial delivery date, scheduled for May 30, would be delayed until the end of June. The president has also had to delay until August the initial negotiated deadline for the guerrillas to leave the 26 concentration zones where they arrived in December 2016.
The dates of disarmament and other dates of the peace process have changed due to political events in Colombia. First was the October 2016 plebiscite convened by Santos in which the Colombians had to vote on whether or not they were in agreement with the peace deal with the FARC. As a result of the ensuing “No” vote, the dates were postponed.
This was followed by a decision by the Constitutional Court in early May that deprived Santos of the ability to expeditiously execute the implementation of some agreements. In response, the FARC said that the peace process was in “crisis.”
InSight Crime Analysis
Setting the timetable aside — and whether or not what is delivered by the FARC at the end of June is indeed the guerrilla’s complete arsenal — it seems premature to declare the guerrilla group’s end, especially in the coca-producing areas where its influence is still evident.
During field investigations in Nariño and Putumayo, InSight Crime has verified authorities’ suspicions that the guerrillas, their ex-militiamen, and self-proclaimed dissident groups still have access to hidden caches of arms. The government and the United Nations, in fact, have corroborated the existence of about 900 hiding places.
Furthermore, the Colombian government has estimated there are about 400 FARC dissidents across the country, but InSight Crime’s fieldwork suggests there could be many more.
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Earlier this month, the case of Julio Enrique Lemos, alias “Náder,” an active guerrilla fighter wanted for extradition by the United States for drug trafficking, demonstrated Colombia’s difficulties in defining how to handle drug trafficking cases under the terms of the FARC peace process.
The drug question is particularly important in the country’s largest coca-growing areas, which have been under FARC rule until now, though it is still too early to know to what extent the guerrillas or criminal elements associated with them will continue to be linked to the drug trade in that area.
In sum, although it appears that the deadlines imposed by the peace process will eventually be fulfilled, it seems very premature to declare the ultimate end of the FARC.