In an effort to advance peace and put an end to the nation’s protracted internal strife, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who took office earlier this month, on Saturday proposed a multilateral ceasefire to all illegal armed organizations operating in the nation.
The plan was introduced by Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla fighter who gave up his weapons and went back to civilian life in 1990, while he was visiting the municipality of Ituango in the Antioquia department’s northwest, which has been plagued by insurgency.
Various irregular armed organizations have shown their intention to seek an end to the confrontation, said Petro, the first leftist president in Colombia’s history.
The president said a ceasefire would provide “the most appropriate climate to achieve the societal strength required to legitimize a definitive end to armed violence.”
The president, a 62-year-old economist who was a congressman, intends to seek “total peace” in the nation, which includes reestablishing negotiations with the leftist guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Petro’s plan involves dialogue with dissident factions of the former FARC guerrilla group who rejected a 2016 peace agreement, as well as legal negotiations with criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking, like the Golf Clan.
Such groups would benefit from reduced sentences in exchange for delivering goods and revealing routes.
In July last year, fighting between the AGC and a FARC dissident group, as well as threats by armed groups, forced over 4,000 people to flee Ituango, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Colombia’s internal armed conflict lasted nearly six decades and left at least 450,000 dead, most of them civilians, between 1985 and 2018 alone.
Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez announced this week that Colombia will suspend aerial bombardments against illegal armed groups in the midst of the internal conflict to avoid collateral damage to the civilian population, the death of forcibly recruited minors, and as a gesture to advance towards a complete peace.