Conflict Summary

Following four years of negotiations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government signed a peace agreement in November 2016. It ended over half a century of war, although the much-smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) – another left-wing insurgent group – remains active. Also active are the organised-crime groups (BACRIM) that formed after the incomplete demobilisation of right-wing paramilitaries during the 2000s, especially from the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). The most powerful criminal group in Colombia now is Los Urabeños (also known as Clan Usuga). They present less of a military threat to Colombian forces, but retain significant influence and criminal revenues over rural and urban areas. Criminal groups have rushed to fill the gap left by FARC rebels in some rural areas, eyeing especially the illicit revenue from informal gold mining and drug trafficking.

The FARC guerrilla force – and the ELN – formed in the mid-1960s. FARC emerged after a government of national unity excluded communists and failed to resolve land conflicts; the ELN was inspired by the Cuban revolution. Both groups fought the Colombian government and the right-wing paramilitaries for half a decade. By the late 1990s, FARC was heavily involved in kidnappings, assassinations and Colombia's sizable cocaine trade. So, like his predecessor Andres Pastrana, former president Alvaro Uribe was boosted in his fight against the rebels by large inflows of US anti-drugs cash. Relentless army offensives followed failed peace talks in 2002, and FARC was pushed from urban areas, saw its numbers roughly halved to 9,000 and lost several key members. In 2008, it was even tricked into releasing hostages, including French–Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. By the end of the peace process in 2016, FARC dissidence appeared small: only part of the 1st front decided to carry on fighting, plus a few other members. According to government estimates, these dissidents represented 3% of the 5,765 members declared by FARC at the lead-up to the disarmament and demobilisation process.