Peace Talks Begin Between FARC Dissidents and Colombian Government

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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The Colombian government and a splinter faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as the Second Marquetalia began peace talks on Monday in a continuation of Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s efforts to bring an era of “total peace” to the nation.

Talks to End Violence

The peace talks are taking place in Venezuela’s capital of Caracas, a historic location for talks between the Colombian government and various armed groups within Colombia such as the FARC and fellow leftist guerilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN). Talks are expected to last until Sunday, June 29.

Armando Novoa, who is leading Colombia’s peace delegation, told Reuters that the government hopes to arrange a long-term peace deal before Petro leaves office in 2026. Novoa further stated that he hopes the peace talks progress quickly as many of those representing the Second Marquetalia participated in the 2016 peace deal which saw the majority of the FARC disarm and disband under president Juan Manuel Santos.

Armando Novoa, the Colombian government’s lead negotiator with the Second Marquetalia. (Photo – armandonovoa.com)

These peace talks are reportedly not intended to achieve a full disarmament of the Second Marquetalia, but to achieve a “de-escalation of violence in the territories where they [Second Marquetalia] operate,” according to Otty Patino, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace.

“The idea of reaching power, of state power, is not on the agenda of what is going to be negotiated,” Patino concluded, likely alluding to the 2016 peace deal with the Colombian government.

The leader of the Second Marquetalia, Luciano Marin, better known as Ivan Marquez, confirmed the Second Marquetalia shares the same motives. “Today we want to state that the Second Marquetalia of the Bolivarian Army, under my command and its collective leadership, is fully prepared to contribute to the common achievement of peace for Colombia,” Marquez stated at the event.

The Second Marquetalia is made up of members of the FARC who originally agreed to the 2016 peace deal but later rearmed after the group alleged that the Colombian government failed to implement a number of key concerns within the peace deal’s structure. The group now has an estimated 1,751 fighters, placing them below their fellow FARC rivals, the Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC), whose membership stands at an estimated 2,000-3,000 guerillas.

Luciano Marín Arango (center), also known as “Iván Márquez,” the leader of Second Marquetalia and head of the group's delegation in the peace talks. (Photo - EPA/Shuttershock)
Luciano Marín Arango (center), also known as “Iván Márquez,” the leader of Second Marquetalia and head of the group’s delegation in the peace talks. (Photo – EPA/Shuttershock)

While the group currently has less manpower than the FARC-EMC, ELN, and right-wing paramilitary turned narco-terrorists, Clan del Golfo, the group occupies key locations within Colombia’s eastern jungles and southern Venezuela where the group has historically enjoyed protection.

A Quest for Peace

The start of peace talks with the Second Marquetalia marks a continuation of President Petro’s “total peace” plan which seeks to end Colombia’s 60 year-long internal conflict between the government and various armed groups through a number of ceasefires, with the ultimate goal to disband the nation’s various armed groups. The conflict has taken an estimated 450,000 lives and has been marred with scandals ranging from political figures allegedly colluding with right-wing paramilitaries to the nation’s “false positives” scandal.

Petro’s plan for “total peace” has been met with fierce criticism as many opposed to the president’s approach allege that armed groups in truces with the government continue their criminal operations. Critics of the “total peace” plan point to the very incident which led to the dissolution of a ceasefire with the FARC-EMC, wherein the armed group attacked an indigenous community leading to the death of a community leader and the wounding of two others.

Photo of Colombian President Gustavo Petro. (Photo – AFP)

The plan has achieved mixed results. While the government successfully arranged the aforementioned ceasefire with the FARC-EMC, talks have stalled with the ELN. The stall followed the government’s decision to enter talks with the ELN’s Narino front outside of the national representatives for the armed group, a move the national leadership ultimately rejected. The peace deals have also allowed armed groups within Colombia to increase their territorial control and numbers, and expand narcotics production and smuggling operations.

This overall increase in the group’s illicit operations is likely the motive for the FARC-EMC’s increased attacks against government forces, as the group likely wishes to force the Colombian government to return to the relative peace that allowed the growth of its power through violent attacks.

“No matter how much pressure these illegal organizations try to exert, we will not back down from the decision to suspend the ceasefire. Offensive operations by the Public Force [military and national police] will continue,” Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez stated in April, seemingly confirming this theory.

Colombia’s Defense Minister, Ivan Velásquez Gómez. (Photo – US Embassy Guatemala)

“This organization has only filled the communities in these departments with anguish and suffering, and it is precisely because of these criminal actions against the population that the government, the President of the Republic, decreed the suspension of the cessation. And no matter how much pressure is intended to be exerted, we are not going to decline this decision taken to suspend the cessation and develop offensive operations by the Public Force,” Velasquez continued.

With Petro sure to be feeling the pressure of securing enduring peace for Colombia before the end of his term, the desire to leave a legacy of peace is not entirely within his control.