Momentum toward peace in Colombia is building. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has altered some of its internal procedures in order to sign an eventual peace deal, according to a report released Feb. 25 by the Colombian think tank Fundacion Paz y Reconciliacion. The extent to which these activities are occurring across Colombia is unclear, but their existence suggests that the FARC is seeking to gradually disengage from the conflict and possibly lay the groundwork for future bases of political support.
According to the report, the FARC no longer keeps recruits at camps, instead leaving them in their home villages for six months of the year, with some conducting agricultural labor. The guerrilla group also reputedly has stopped ruling on local judicial issues and disputes through direct monthly meetings with communities. Instead, the group now relies on Communal Action Juntas, state-sanctioned local government entities that administer judicial issues, to settle local disputes. Lastly, FARC members have been meeting with local communities more frequently, with the rebel group calling some meetings of more than 200 people, in order to cultivate political support in unspecified areas.
Formalizing the fine print of a FARC demobilization will extend negotiations with the government for the foreseeable future. The militants will also have to demonstrate that their commanders have effective control over other leaders and rank-and-file rebels in the field. Moreover, they will have to prove that those units are willing and able to de-escalate the conflict. The slower deployment of new recruits to camps, along with the group's unilateral cease-fire implemented Dec. 20, strongly indicate that the group considers a peace deal likely enough that it is willing to concede some tactical advantages on the battlefield.
The process of negotiating amnesty for FARC leaders (though they face criminal charges in both Colombia and the United States) will test the cease-fire in coming months. Still, a reciprocal cease-fire from the Colombian government implies that progress is being made on this and other issues. The FARC could also gain political participation as a result of the talks, with the report of the rebels holding meetings with locals suggestive of an effort to draw political support from local communities, a logical source of future backing for the group.
The report is based on isolated anecdotes, but it implies militant commitment to moving the peace process forward. In the coming months, signs that the government is reducing operations against the FARC in southern and southwestern states such as Putumayo, Cauca, Narino, Caqueta and Choco, as well as in northeastern areas of Arauca and Norte de Santander states, will be important. Progress can also be reflected by signs that the militants are making further concessions to the government in accordance with the demobilization and amnesty deals under negotiation at the Havana peace talks. Such actions will determine the shape of an eventual deal and whether it can hold. For the moment, it appears that the talks have the momentum to continue, since the agreements voiced in Havana are being accompanied by action in Colombia.