Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Monday that Colombia is suspending a truce with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) rebel group in flashpoint regions–including Meta, Guaviare, Putumayo and Caqueta–after the group killed four indigenous children. EMC is an offshoot of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It consists of leftist guerrilla fighters who refused to join a peace deal signed by the FARC leadership in 2016, which saw most rebels lay down their arms.
Petro effected a six-month truce with EMC, which has been in place since January 1, and EMC announced that it will begin peace talks with the government on May 16. However, following the killing of four Indigenous children by EMC, Petro questioned EMC’s commitment to the bilateral ceasefire agreement. He criticized the group’s violence, stating that the killings constituted crimes against humanity. In addition, he expressed that, if the bilateral ceasefire was not enough to protect Colombian lives, then there was no point in its continued existence.
Petro later declared that the government took the unilateral action to partially suspend the effects of Decree 2656 of 2022, effectively suspending the ceasefire with EMC and reactivating all offensive operations in the four flashpoint regions within 72 hours. Nevertheless, the government said that it will continue maintaining its bilateral ceasefire agreement with EMC in other parts of Colombia where the number of attacks has decreased. In addition, it will appoint delegates to lead peace talks with the rebel group.
Meanwhile, EMC claimed that the end of the unilateral ceasefire will cause war and an increase in deaths, injuries and prisoners. Additionally, the group expressed that the government’s desire for change is seen only in speeches and promises.
EMC is not the only rebel group to have resisted the Colombian government’s efforts. In March, a ceasefire agreement between the Gulf Clan and the government broke down after the Gulf Clan defied government efforts to clamp down on illegal mines. Moreover, the National Liberation Army (ELN) rejected the initial ceasefire agreement proposed by the government, and recently paused peace talks after Petro said that its younger commanders were motivated by drug trafficking profits, not political goals.
As Colombia’s first left-wing president and a former guerrilla fighter, Petro has attempted to combat the violence that indigenous communities face from criminal groups in Colombia by engaging in peace negotiations with rebel groups. According to a Red Cross report in March, violence between armed groups and government forces had deescalated; however, civilians have continued to face displacements and violence from armed groups.