What Colombia Peace Process Means for Military’s Future

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Colombia’s FARC guerrillas are to extend their unilateral ceasefire, an encouraging sign for the country’s peace process. The announcement also offers a glimpse of a post-conflict Colombia, in which the army is redirected from counter-insurgency to tackling organized crime networks.

On August 20, negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) declared the rebels would extend their unilateral ceasefire until November, in an effort to boost peace talks with the Colombian government and de-escalate the conflict.

The FARC declared an initial ceasefire on July 20, which brought several months of heightened violence to an end. In response to the announcement, the government declared it would rein in the military and once again suspend airstrikes against the guerrillas.

The FARC had previously declared an indefinite ceasefire in December 2014, but this broke down in May following an army attack. According to conflict monitoring group CERAC, the FARC has largely observed the new ceasefire that was declared in July, with only two incidents of violence related to Colombia’s conflict, a 40-year low for the country. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The resumption of efforts to de-escalate the conflict between the Colombian state and the FARC is undoubtedly good news for the country’s peace process — and may well prove bad news for its organized crime networks. With the military less focused on counter-insurgency operations, it will have more resources to dedicate to combating criminal groups.

If a final peace agreement is signed and the FARC demobilize, then combating organized crime will likely become the primary role of Colombia’s security forces. This will require a change in attitude and approach, especially for the military, which is currently set up to hunt and kill guerrilla units, rather than for the softer approach needed for dismantling criminal networks.

SEE ALSO: The FARC, Peace, and Possible Criminalization

However, this will not be a completely new task for the military, which is already heavily involved in such operations. The biggest operation yet involving both the police and the army is still ongoing — the hunt for Dairo Antonio Usuga alias “Otoniel,” the leader of Colombia’s most powerful criminal network, the Urabeños.

Six months in the running, the operation has thus far resulted in  441 arrests, the seizure of 13.7 tons of drugs, and the confiscation of over $7 million, reported El Espectador. However, Otoniel himself still remains at large.

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