On September 2nd, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Central High Command (EMC), a dissident group from the Havana Accords signed with the now-defunct FARC in 2016, announced the start of dialogue. They also expressed their willingness to establish a verifiable ceasefire when the talks begin.
Former Dissidence of Gentil Duarte
The dissident group known as the Central High Command was formerly known as the Gentil Duarte dissidence. This former FARC guerrilla group broke away from the Havana Accords of 2016 and returned to armed conflict, forming a group of approximately 1500 men.
Their operational center is in the southern and eastern regions of the country, extending to the borders of Ecuador and Venezuela. It was in Venezuela that their leader, Gentil Duarte, was killed in May 2022 in an explosive attack; it is not clear who was responsible.
At the time, there were reports of an attack by the ELN, but also rumours of an operation by the Colombian army, which would be illegal as it occurred on Venezuelan territory. Other sources mentioned the possible involvement of another dissident faction of the FARC, such as the Second Marquetalia led by Ivan Marquez, who had been in conflict with Gentil Duarte.
The group is currently led by Iván Mordisco, the first of the former commanders of the defunct FARC to declare opposition to the demobilization agreement with the state in 2016. Mordisco had already expressed his interest in dialogue with the current Colombian government of President Petro in April of this year.
No Dates or Location
In a joint statement, the government and EMC announced the establishment of a dialogue table “with its entire legal and political architecture, and with the presence of the international community as guarantors and companions.” However, no dates or locations for future talks were announced.
“The parties will announce the date, location, operating mechanism, special guests, countries, and international actors who, as guarantors and/or companions, will support the Peace Dialogue Table and the implementation of agreements reached, for which a formal invitation will be sent,” the joint statement released on Saturday said.
Preparatory Meeting: September 17th
Likewise, the published statement states that on September 17th, a first meeting between the parties will take place to “evaluate, monitor, and adjust the commitments made to generate trust and announce the date for the installation of the peace dialogue table.”
At this meeting, a possible temporary and nationally verifiable ceasefire will be discussed.
Context of Total Peace
These announced dialogues with the EMC add to those that have been ongoing since last year with the ELN. In addition, the government launched its Total Peace proposal, opening the door for the state to negotiate with other armed groups, regardless of their ideological beliefs, such as other dissident factions of the defunct FARC or groups organized under the banner of former paramilitaries.
The government’s goal, recently praised by the U.S. government, is to establish channels to demobilize various armed groups operating in Colombia. Since the disappearance of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in 2006, the group that brought together paramilitaries, and the FARC in 2016, splinter groups from both organizations have continued armed actions throughout the country.
President Petro’s government aims to reduce these groups to a minimum, even offering a second chance to those who violated the agreements made with the state in Havana in 2016.