Ten days have passed since the official end of the unilateral FARC ceasefire dubbed the “Christmas truce” raising the possibility of resumed violence even as tense peace negotiations with the Colombian government continue in Havana. Already, reports confirm renewed FARC activity in areas most affected by the presence of the world’s oldest guerrilla group.
“Since Jan. 20, there has been a noticeable increase of activity in Arauca, Putumayo and Caquetá for example,” claims Hilda Molano, of the Coalition Against the Involvement of Boys, Girls and Adolescents in the Colombian Armed Conflict, COALICO.
Perhaps more important is the question of whether or not the FARC actually laid down their weapons at all. While their truce involved only an offensive ceasefire, reserving the right to defend themselves if attacked, various reports suggest that aggressions continued throughout the two month period.
According to Ariel Ávila of the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, a political think tank, the truce had three main objectives: demonstrating good communication and coordination among FARC troops, conserving resources and manpower and reaffirming the group’s commitment to the peace process.
“It’s tough to say whether they complied or not,” says Molano. “There were some reports of displacement and attacks against civilians, but it’s difficult to confirm if incidents clearly violate their truce.”
The number of violent incidents registered dropped by more than two thirds once the truce began. With 41 armed confrontations registered during the ceasefire period, at least seven were in violation of the agreement, suggested Ávila. He added that another eight incidents could be considered borderline.
Molano agreed that certain issues could have affected FARC compliance with the truce. “It’s possible that there were difficulties in communication between the different fronts of the FARC,” she said. “It also seems clear that the official negotiations don’t necessarily reflect the internal ideologies of the FARC.”
Different media reports have recently suggested possible tension between different bloques of the FARC, particularly the Eastern and Southern bloques, both of which apparently expressed disagreement with the direction the peace dialogues have taken.
“There are two peace processes going on right now,” explained Ávila. “The official process in Havana seems to be going well. But the other, hidden process – the dialogue amongst different factions of the FARC, like the discussions amongst members of the government – doesn’t seem to be going quite as well.”
Late Tuesday, FARC negotiators in Havana confirmed in a press release that the group would continue to kidnap soldiers and police, saying that such abductions counted as prisoners of war. The statement came hours after Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón demanded the release of two policemen captured last week.
Nonetheless, FARC commanders continue to call for bilateral ceasefires from Havana in order to better facilitate a peaceful conversation. The Colombian government has remained steadfast in refusing to accept such a condition.
“It’s too difficult to say how things will turn out,” says Molano. “But the civilian population will be the ones who lose if the dialogue cannot continue successfully.”