situation report

Colombia: FARC Ends Unilateral Cease-Fire

2 MINS READMay 22, 2015 | 19:54 GMT

Negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced in Havana on May 22 that the group will end the nationwide unilateral cease-fire that began Dec. 20. The FARC had initiated the cease-fire to demonstrate a willingness to negotiate with the government toward a peace agreement.

The decision to end the cease-fire stemmed from a recent airstrike that killed 26 militants from the FARC's 29th Front in Guapi, Cauca department. The airstrike followed the Colombian government's April 15 decision to renew targeted airstrikes after FARC militants attacked Buenos Aires, Cauca department, and killed 11 soldiers. Before a hiatus that began March 10, government airstrikes were an effective tool for disrupting FARC leadership networks.

It is unclear whether the FARC will follow through with its threat to suspend the cease-fire. If it does, the FARC's militant attacks against security forces and oil pipelines in the country's oil-producing regions will increase. Despite sporadic violence against police and military personnel, the first half of 2015 saw a significant drop-off in such attacks compared with 2014, when militants frequently attacked government forces and energy infrastructure. Colombia's Conflict Analysis Resource Center reported only 22 FARC attacks from Dec. 20 to May 20, down 85 percent from the same period in 2014. If the group renews its attacks, oil pipelines in Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Narino and Arauca states will likely experience FARC attacks involving improvised explosive devices. The FARC remains united enough that an order from Havana to recommence attacks would probably result in a nationwide uptick in violence.

However, even if the militants renew their offensive against the government, it does not mean that the peace talks are in danger of ending. Both the FARC and the government have used military force to push for political concessions. The militants may simply try to use increased attacks to eventually force the government to agree to a bilateral cease-fire or to at least halt airstrikes again.

It is still in the FARC leadership's interest to reach a negotiated solution. Over the past decade, the government has slowly gained the upper hand it its fight against the rebels. If the talks fail, Bogota can continue to pressure the group. Similarly, it is in the government's interest to avoid pressuring the FARC to the point of disrupting negotiations. A successful peace deal would reduce politically motivated attacks in Colombia and would enable Bogota to reorient military forces toward countering increasingly divided Colombian criminal networks.

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