Gustavo Petro signs ceasefire to negotiate with five illegal armed groups

The Colombian president announced "a bilateral ceasefire" for six months, with the possibility to "extend depending on progress."

Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced a "bilateral ceasefire" with five illegal armed groups to advance peace negotiations. The agreement, which will be verified by national and international bodies, is initially valid for six months, although it could be extended "depending on progress" in the talks.

Petro expressed great confidence in the initiative in tweet announcing the agreement. A former guerrilla himself, he emphasized that "total peace will be a reality." The Colombian government has obtained a ceasefire commitment from the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Second Marquetalia, the Central General Staff, the AGC and the Self-Defense Forces of the Sierra Nevada (Autodefensas de la Sierra Nevada) for the duration of the negotiations. According to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), an independent think tank, some 90 armed groups are currently operating in the country.

"A bold act"

Petro himself called this initiative "a bold act" in a Twitter post congratulating his compatriots on New Year's Eve. "It is my wish at the end of this year that peace is possible." The tweet ended an inspiring message, "May peace be between us. Happy new year."

The UN and the Catholic Church among supporters

The Colombian president stressed that the ceasefire will have "a national and international verification mechanism" to ensure that it is real. According to the information provided by the president, those in charge will be the UN Verification Mission, the Mission to Support the Peace Process of the Organization of American States (MAPP/OAS), the Ombudsman's Office and the Catholic Church.

The conflict in Colombia has now lasted more than six decades, with more than 450,000 recorded dead between 1985 and 2018.