10. Political and Security Environment
Security in Colombia has improved significantly over the past 17 years. Colombia experienced a significant decrease in terrorist activity, due in large part to a bilateral ceasefire between government forces and Colombia’s largest terrorist organization, the FARC. On November 26, 2016, President Santos signed a peace agreement with the FARC to end half a century of confrontation. Congressional approval of a peace accord between the government and the FARC on November 30, 2016 put in motion a six-month disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process, which granted the FARC status as a legal political organization. FARC demobilization could bring greater development opportunities to rural regions. Since the November 2016 peace accord with the FARC, 7,000 guerrillas have disarmed (over 11,000 are participating in the process, including militia and former prisoners); key implementing legislation has passed; and a UN special political mission has begun verifying security guarantees and FARC reintegration. Security forces estimate roughly 1,000 combatants (FARC dissidents) have chosen not to participate in the process. Currently the peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which began in February 2017, are suspended. This terrorist group continues a low-cost, high-impact asymmetric insurgency. ELN attacks, alongside powerful narco-criminal group operations, are posing a threat to commercial activity and investment, especially in some rural zones where government control is weak. The ELN often focuses attacks on oil pipelines, mines, roads, and electricity towers to disrupt economic activity and pressure the government. The ELN also extorts businesses in their areas of operation, kidnaps personnel, and destroys property of entities that refuse to pay for protection. The Colombian government estimates the ELN has 1,500 to 2,000 armed members.