COLOMBIA + 20, EL ESPECTADOR, October 16, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The ceasefire will be national, and will begin at midnight on this October 16, and will last until January 15, 2024.

In spite of the notable delay of four hours and the uncertainty because of the silence of both parties, the act of undertaking the discussions between the Gustavo Petro administration and the dissidents of the now-defunct FARC who call themselves the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) (Central Command Staff) took place this Monday. In the event, which took place in Tibú, Norte de Santander Department, also announced the hoped-for bilateral ceasefire which will last for three months, until January 15, 2024.

According to sources close to the process, the delay in the action simply had to do with the ceasefire decree, as it lacked President Petro’s signature. For several hours, the government delegation had to wait for the document with the signature before heading for the El Barquito Club in that municipality.

The Decree is different from the agreement signed on September 19 in the town (vereda) of Playa Rica in Suárez, Cauca Department. There it was agreed that the ceasefire would be in effect for ten months. According to this document, the ceasefire will begin at “00:00 on September 17, 2023, and will be in effect until 24:00 on January 17, 2024”, with the possibility of extension.

The document also specifies that among the objectives of the ceasefire is respect for the lives of groups of people needing special protection, including signers of the 2016 Peace Agreement, promoting the participation of society in the process, permitting the carrying out of the regional elections on October 29, and creating “conditions for the accomplishment of the territorial agreements.”

After a rough push and pull, the parties agreed that the ceasefire would be guided by a protocol that would “identify the areas where the Central Command Staff of the FARC-EP are present, and which would be the object of monitoring by the government. In each case, they are not to include populated areas or areas that would compromise national security,” the document states.

The Decree also speaks of “territorial impact” which, according to the explanation, concerns actions oriented to transformation of the countryside toward peace and social justice. “These activities will be carried out with partial agreements, whose execution will begin in the Micay River valley, and later on in other regions where the dialogs may take place.” The Micay Canyon, which has been turned into the plunder of war by both parties, is in the western part of Cauca, in the valley of the San Juan de Micay River, between the municipalities of El Tambo, López de Micay, and Argelia. It’s a territory that’s geographically complex, but strategic for the dissidents, and that’s the reason that the government has tried to retake control.

Although the region has been facing a coca market crisis for a year now, it’s the place where 75% of the 25,000 hectares of coca crops in Cauca are planted, and the illegal groups have been able to build a scaffolding for that supply that includes laboratories for pasta base and chloralhydrate of cocaine, and they control a route to the ocean to export the drugs from the coasts of Guapi and Timbiqui.

How will the dialog tables be made up?

According to the Decree, the authorized representatives of the Colombian government and the dissidents will be at the table. In addition, there will be a technical committee made up of delegates from both sides, Defense Ministry personnel, and one military and one police observer. That committee has to develop a protocol for identifying the areas where the armed groups are present during the ceasefire. That way they can untangle any disagreement about the georeferencing of the dissidents’ troops.

How will the Armed Forces be operating?

According to the document, the suspension of military and offensive operations will not imply the preservation of security in the territory, and none of the activities by the Armed Forces against the illegal economies will be suspended. In addition, members of the Armed Forces are obligated to respect International Human Rights Law, and the Minister of Defense will issue guidelines for compliance with the Decree.

Here’s how the system for Oversight, Monitoring, and Verification (MVMV) will function.

The system for monitoring the ceasefire between the government and the EMC dissidents will be made up of: delegates from the Office of the High Commissioner, the Minister of Defense, the Armed Forces (Military and Police), and representatives of the armed group. There will also be delegates from the U.N. Verification Mission, subject to the decision by the Security Council, which has to approve the mandate, and the Peace Process Mission of Support (MAPP) from the OAS. The Episcopal Conference and the World Council of Churches will act to accompany.

The MVMV will be made up of three groups, a national, a regional, and a local, which will be in charge of verifying compliance with the ceasefire in the identified geographic areas, to inform, and to prevent incidents, gather data, and classify and assess any event that could be considered a violation of the ceasefire and its protocols. The Decree states that the national group will be installed by next week.

That system will also prepare reports on compliance with the Agreement on respect for the civilian population, implementation of the ceasefire and its protocol of regulations and commitments, and make recommendations to the dialog tables.

The National Police, through the Unit for the Construction of Peace, UNIPEP, will carry out the work of protecting the system. “These security measures will be identified through a protocol,” according to the Decree.

In that manner, there will be social, citizen, and community oversight, the conditions of which will also be fixed in the corresponding protocol.

Funds for the implementation of the commitments in this Decree will come from the Special Programs Fund for Peace.

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