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Defence and Security Strategy

On December 5 the Colombian Government and the country’s largest rebel group – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – reconvened for the second stage of peace talks.

As a show of faith the FARC has pledged to cease kidnapping and declared a unilateral ceasefire until January 20, 2013.

“The FARC’s actions in these initial stages of peace negotiation are a strong indication that there could be a reduced risk of kidnaps for ransom in Colombia,” says Will Miller, Divisional Director of Special Contingency Risks (SCR) in his latest blog on WillisWire.

However, he urges caution because there are several active groups that continue to pose a kidnap threat in the country.

Key highlights from the blog include:

Local media reported that the FARC is still holding a large number of hostages in captivity and plans to exchange them for imprisoned guerrillas.

The majority of kidnaps that occur in Colombia are carried out by other criminal groups (not the FARC) who then sell their victims to the FARC guerillas.

Another big Colombian rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), is not covered by the FARC’s ceasefire or its promise to stop kidnapping. Thus, they continue to provide a market for gangs to sell hostages to and an obstacle to the reduction of kidnap for ransom in Colombia.

What will happen to the estimated 8,000 members of FARC’s rural-based insurgency if the peace talks are successful? A large number of former guerrillas who are highly experienced in kidnapping and extortion will be left in need of an alternative income. A major challenge following a successful peace negotiation for the Colombian government will be the rehabilitation of these former guerrillas into Colombian society to prevent the possibility of them re-joining a criminal gang and continuing the kidnapping activity