Colombian President Gustavo Petro proposes multilateral ceasefire deal to illegal militia groups

Colombian President Gustavo Petro attends a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in Bogota, Colombia.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who took office earlier this month, on Saturday proposed a multilateral ceasefire to all illegal armed groups operating in the country as part of an effort to promote peace and end decades of internal conflict.

Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla fighter who laid down his arms and returned to civilian life in 1990, announced the initiative during a visit to the municipality of Ituango, in the insurgency plagued northwestern department of Antioquia.

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.

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