The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest left-wing guerrilla group, on Thursday, August 3, began a 180-day bilateral ceasefire. The truce will remain in force until January 29, 2024. The historic step was agreed upon on June 9 during the third round of peace negotiations between the two sides in Havana, Cuba. The development marked the most concrete progress to date for leftist president Gustavo Petro and his government’s plan to bring “total peace” to the country and end over 60 years of internal armed conflict, during which more than 450,000 people were killed.
For years the US government has given the wrong kind of aid to Colombia – billions of dollars for war and repression, and to secure profits for global capitalism. It has made Colombia both a dependent state and a crucially strategic military colony for US imperialism. What it has not done is give any kind of adequate support for Colombia’s peace process or for the Total Peace Plan proposed by President Gustavo Petro, despite US responsibility for six decades of war. The US owes Colombia a debt of peace, and that debt is long overdue. (The Pentagon’s Yarborough Commission recommended in 1962 that the Colombian government organize paramilitaries and acts of terror, along with unilateral assaults against autonomous peasant zones.
In what may constitute a mortal blow to Colombia’s peace process, President Ivan Duque has defied the order by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to releaseJesús Santrich, aka Seuxis Hernández Solarte, from prison. Santrich is a negotiator and former insurgent who helped craft the accord to end more than five decades of civil war. The failure to recognize the court’s authority undermines a key provision of the accord implemented in 2016: the establishment of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace court to oversee truth and reconciliation processes, the handling of criminal procedures, release of political prisoners and prisoners of war, as well as extradition requests regarding ex-combatants.