Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Monday suspended the truce with the main dissident group of the former FARC guerrillas, in four regions of the country, after the assassination of four indigenous miners by the rebels.
"The current bilateral ceasefire with this armed group in the departments of Meta, Caquetá, Guaviare and Putumayo (south) is suspended and all offensive operations are reactivated," the Colombian president wrote in a statement released. on Twitter.
These four departments in the south of the country are a stronghold of the guerrilla group that did not accept the 2016 peace agreement that disarmed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Four "children and teenagers" from the Murui indigenous community were killed on the border between the departments of Caquetá and Amazonas by members of the Carolina Ramirez front belonging to the main ex-FARC dissidence, "the Central Staff -FARC" (EMC-FARC), the Office of the Defender of the People announced on Sunday.
The minors, whose age was not specified, had been forcibly recruited by the rebels, according to a report from indigenous communities in the region.
It is an "atrocious act which calls into question the will to build a peaceful country. Nothing can justify this type of crime", estimated President Petro in his press release.
Meta Department Governor Juan Guillermo Zuluaga welcomed the suspension of the truce on Twitter: "Patience was going to run out. The suspension of the ceasefire with the dissidents is not only due to the despicable murder of four children, but also to the kidnappings, extortion and other criminal actions that have never ceased," he said.
As part of an ambitious "total peace" plan for Colombia, President Petro has been trying for several months to negotiate with the guerrillas and other armed groups active in the country, often linked to drug trafficking: dissidents from the ex-FARC but also the National Liberation Army (ELN - Guevarist), paramilitary groups and criminal groups such as the Clan del Golfo.
In April, the EMC-FARC declared itself ready to start talks as early as May, but no negotiations had yet taken place.
In 2021, the independent think tank Indepaz estimated that this dissidence, led by Ivan Mordisco, had around 1,700 fighters.
On December 31, President Petro declared a bilateral ceasefire with this group and four other of the country's main armed structures.
Two other truces have already failed: with the ELN, which has refused to cease hostilities despite peace talks since November, and with the Clan del Golfo cartel, which has attacked security forces and the civilian population in the context of demonstrations by illegal miners.
"If the ceasefire is not effective in certain territories to protect the life and integrity of the population, it is senseless to maintain it," said Gustavo Petro.
In a statement, the EMC-FARC strongly criticized Mr. Petro's announcement, without mentioning the killing of indigenous miners. "Unilateral rupture will trigger war and the number of dead, wounded and prisoners will multiply," he said. "This government has been the least serious in engaging in talks," the rebels added, calling on the president to craft a peace policy "without improvisation, without pressure" and without "breaking" the rules.
The peace strategy of the country's first left-wing head of state is increasingly criticized by the opposition, which questions his ability not to give in to pressure from illegal groups.
"The first person responsible for the escalation of violence is Petro, who, under the guise of total peace, left Colombia in the hands of terrorists," said right-wing senator Maria Fernanda Cabal on Twitter.
With this new suspension of the truce, only two other ceasefires remain in force in the country: with the Segunda Marquetalia, another splinter faction of the ex-FARC, and the Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra Nevada, a paramilitary group from Santa Martina (north).
05/22/2023 19:37:08 - Bogotá (AFP) - © 2023 AFP