Will Colombia’s peace settlement survive the change of president?

Today a new president takes office in the South American state of Colombia. On 17 June, Ivan Duque, the conservative  candidate of Democratic Centre – who is alleged to be under the control of the former president Alvaro Uribe – beat the leftist Gustavo Petro (a former member of the guerilla group M-19) standing for Human Columbia.

So, why should that interest me? Well, shortly I am about to make my first ever visit to Colombia (it will be my 73rd country) and Duque campaigned on a programme that was severely critical of the peace agreement with the largest guerilla group FARC which has ended a very long-standing if undeclared civil war.

FARC – which in English is known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia – was founded in 1964 and the war of some five decades between FARC and the state & paramilitaries has caused an estimated 320,000 deaths and almost 7 million displaced.

After many failed attempts and three years of talks, a peace deal was finally agreed in August 2016, but it was very narrowly rejected in a referendum in October 2016 (critics felt that it was too ‘soft’ on the guerillas). Following a whole series of amendments, a new deal was approved by the Congress in December 2016.

The terms of the deal are extensive and complicated and sometimes vague, but largely FARC has honoured the agreement (over 7,000 guerillas have surrender their arms) while the government has been slow to implement important features of the deal (former fighters need training and jobs).

Since the agreement was approved, however, critics of the deal have won the parliamentary elections of March 2018 and the presidential election of June 2018.

We now have to see how much change to the peace agreement will be sought by new president Ivan Duque and how FARC will react to any changes to the deal. Meanwhile negotiations continue with the second largest guerrilla army, the ELN (in English, the National Liberation Army). Furthermore, FARC’s withdrawal from the drug trade –  part of the peace agreement – has led to cartels battling to take over the business.


  • Janet

    I think we should be seriously worried about Colombia – look what has happened in other places shortly after your visits!

    Seriously, I have just read “News of a Kidnapping” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which narrates and explains the truly horrendous situation in Colombia in the 90s, so we must all hope that the current fragile state of affairs does not deteriorate once again.

  • Roger Darlington

    I agree, Janet!


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