Of all the extraordinary meetings held in Colombia since the peace process between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc) began, nothing would have been less conceivable than that senior members of the guerrilla group would consent to sit down at the same table as leaders of the demobilised paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) with which they fought such a long and bloody armed conflict. But that is precisely what happened on 19 July. The reconciliation is a major boost for victims of the conflict, but the release of a seminal study this week into Colombia’s extant illegal armed groups, many of them heirs to the AUC, raised alarming questions about the prospect of peace in Colombia.

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