Since the end of the bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and the ELN on 09 January, the largest remaining insurgent group in the country has launched acts of violence and sabotage in its areas of influence, including attacks on security forces, oil pipelines and transport infrastructure. In response, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the peace talks and launched military operations on strongholds and units of the insurgent group.

Prospects for Further Negotiations

Violent disruptions of the Colombian peace process have not been unusual so far. The negotiations with the FARC, the formerly largest insurgent group in the country, were interrupted several times by bouts of violent operations. But in early 2018, finding the way back to the bargaining table may be more difficult than before. In light of the upcoming presidential elections in May, President Santos may be aiming at rebutting the opposition’s common accusations against him of being lenient on insurgents and terrorism. On the other hand, Santos’s tougher stance on the ELN could also be a sign that the government’s faith in the talks are waning. In any case, the renewed conflict may set in motion a spiral of violence that could undo the progress made so far. President Santos’s handling of the situation during his last remaining days in office will be decisive for the further course of the peace process, and by extension, Colombia’s viability as a business venue.

Impact on Travellers and Business Activities

The current setback in the peace talks could have a notable impact on travellers and business activities in Colombia. Particularly areas in or near the ELN’s territories of influence face a notable risk of being affected by attacks on security forces as well as sabotage of industry and transport infrastructure. Bomb attacks in urban centres also remain a possibility. The recent events serve as a reminder of the challenging environment in Colombia for business activities and the necessity of a strong security concept for travellers and assets.

Photo credit: National Police of Colombia | License: Creative Commons