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Latam Brief: Petro announces broad cease-fire (January 03, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing

Colombian President Gustavo Petro inaugurated 2023 announcing a six-month bilateral ceasefire with five armed groups — the ELN, two dissident FARC groups, the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia and the Self-Defense Forces of the Sierra Nevada.

The government said the ceasefire would be monitored by the United Nations, Colombia’s human rights ombudsman and the Catholic Church. Each organization will have a specific decree determining the durations and conditions of the ceasefire, which can be extended past June 30.

Indepaz directo Camilo González Posso hailed the ceasefire as “extraordinary,” and said it would affect 80 illegal structures, with impact in 350 Colombian municipalities. The ceasefire affects an estimated 15,000 armed fighters.

Petro’s announcement is a major step towards his goal of “total peace” in Colombia, which has continued to suffer high rates of violence inflicted by armed groups after the landmark 2016 FARC peace accord. Petro has advanced in negotiations with the ELN since assuming office last August, and achieved a truce between rival gangs in Buenaventura.

Colombian lawmakers paved the way for Petro’s new peace policy with a November law permitting the government to negotiate with guerrillas, drug trafficking organizations and paramilitary groups — aimed at eliminating the violence that surged in the power vacuum left by the FARC demobilization in 2017.

Indepaz recorded 94 massacres last year.

(El País, France 24, Reuters, AFP)

More than 25 armed groups, criminals or criminal gangs have expressed their willingness to join Petro’s “Total Peace” plan. If it advances, “Colombia will be in uncharted territory,” according to InSight Crime.

While negotiations could lead to an immediate reduction in violence, there are significant obstacles, including organizations that are uninterested in peace talks and armed groups’ continued reliance on illicit economies (sustained by violence) even during negotiations, explains InSight Crime. Groups will also have to contend with potential internal dissidence.


  • Increasing rejection in Latin America of the U.S. promoted drug war and prohibition model will lead to a “marked increase in cocaine production and the continued proliferation of synthetic drugs in the region” this year, with potentially far reaching criminal ramifications, according to InSight Crime.


  • At least 500 migrants have arrived in the U.S. Florida Keys in recent days from Cuba, an influx that has overwhelmed local officials who called it a “crisis,” yesterday. (Associated Press, Reuters)

El Salvador

  • El Salvador’s Bukele administration “embarked on possibly the most ruthless gang crackdown ever seen in Central America, taking iron fist policies and mass incarceration to new heights,” last year. The campaign has contributed to dramatic reductions in murder rates and has domestic support, but there are “widespread allegations of human rights abuses and unresolved questions about whether such aggressive policies can be sustained,” reports InSight Crime.

Regional Relations

  • A key pillar of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s new government is reestablishing the country’s leadership in international diplomacy. “The challenge will be to give shape, identity and substance to what in international relations is called a ‘grand strategy,’” argue Juan Gabriel Tokatlian and Mónica Hirst in Nueva Sociedad.

  • Chinese investment and overall economic influence in Latin America and the Caribbean has declined somewhat in recent years, but some pillars of engagement, like trade and infrastructure bids remain strong, write Felipe Larraín and Pepe Zhang in Americas Quarterly.

  • Brazil and Argentina are finishing negotiations for an economic and political integration agreement to be signed later this month, reports Cronista.


  • At least 17 people were killed in an attack on a Mexican prison. Twenty-five inmates escaped in the brazen operation apparently designed to free the leader of a local gang, reports the Associated Press.


  • Thousands of mourners paid tribute to Pelé yesterday in Santos, the city where the king of soccer got his start. His coffin was placed on the pitch of the Vila Belmiro stadium, and attendees waited hours under the sun to pay respects to the legend. (Guardian, Washington Post, see yesterday’s briefs.)


  • “Lionel” has surged as a baby moniker in the wake of Argentina’s World Cup win — particularly in Lionel Messi’s home province of Santa Fe where 49 newborns were named after the soccer star in December, reports Infobae.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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