The alarming panorama of armed groups in Colombia

The peace treaty between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been acquiring a secondary role in the daily panorama of the nation. Five years after the end of armed violence, Colombia begins to witness how that past seems to return to its life.

During the last few weeks, several incidents have shaken the country, threatening its state of peace. The Colombian Army carried out an intervention in the Amazon, killing ten dissident FARC members, including one of the leaders known as “Ferney.”

For its part, Another attack in Chocó killed the high command of the National Liberation Army (ELN), alias “Fabián”, and murdered four minors in his intervention. In addition, in the city of Tumaco, in southern Colombia, the authorities reported the murder of five people, making this the 72nd massacre so far in 2021.

Throughout this year, Colombia has experienced an uptick in homicides, forced displacement, clashes between armed gangs, and drug trafficking. Given what certain parties have indicated as the origin of this new wave of violence to the Government of Iván Duque and its lack of action in defense of peace.

The president of Colombia pointed out in a recent interview that “in the three years of our government, more progress has been made than in the first 20 months of the implementation of peace.” in reference to the Government of his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos.

According to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz), the escalation of violence is due, in part, to the constant change and uncertainty of the motivation of the armed groups. These changes are also evident in the younger generations that make up these groups, since their political convictions lack strength, and are aimed at avoiding confrontation with the public force.

Neo-paramilitary organizations

The strengthening of the guerrillas in the 80s and 90s led to the creation of paramilitary organizations that organized to end the rebellion, defend private property and prevent communism from coming to power.

In 2003 the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia demobilized through a peace agreement signed with then-President Álvaro Uribe, But since then various groups have emerged that seize their symbols, especially their territories and ties to drug trafficking, known as neo-paramilitary groups.

Clan del Golfo, also called Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia y Los Urabeños, is the main neo-paramilitary group that lives off drug trafficking, human trafficking and extortion charges. Official data estimate that some 4,000 people belong to this group.

“Their focus is territorial control and they operate under the practices of the paramilitaries, with killings, threats, curfews and social control”, says Elizabeth Dickinson, a researcher at the Crisis Group.

Post-FARC groups or dissidents

These groups call themselves dissidents due to their rejection of the peace process that was implemented in Colombia in 2016, that ended with the mobilization of the largest armed group in Latin America, made up of more than 13,000 guerrillas.

These dissident FARC groups, in turn, are divided into three distinct fronts. The most important of them is the Suroriental Block led by Commanders Gentil Duarte and Iván Mordisco, and made up of 2,700 members, according to the report of the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz).

There is also the Second Marquetalia group, led by aliases Iván Márquez and El Paisa, who have their greatest refuge in Venezuela, with 2,000 combatants. Finally, there is the Western Coordinating Command, with eight structures and 500 people among its ranks.

It is estimated that there are between 30 and 40 post-FARC groups, But his motivation, according to the BBC, is not nationally articulated and does not intend to overthrow the president. Between them, they agree on the territories of action and the distribution of cocaine production.

The ELN, the last guerrilla in America

After the Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in 2016, the National Liberation Army (ELN) became the largest guerrilla in the country. General Luis Fernando Navarro Jiménez, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, estimates that the ELN has a total of about 2,350 combatants.

“It is the last really guerrilla group, in the sense that it has political ideals, it wants to overthrow power in Bogotá and does work not only with the communities, where it sets rules and organizes, but also among its ranks, where there is military and ideological training, “explains Elizabeth Dickinson, Crisis researcher Group.

To control criminal revenues such as illegal mining and gasoline trafficking, the ELN has had to rapidly expand throughout Venezuela. In the states of Zulia, Táchira, Apure and Anzoátegui, the ELN has strengthened, while it has gained ground in those of Amazonas, Bolívar, Barinas, Trujillo, Portuguesa, Lara, Falcón and Guárico. “Today in Venezuela the ELN carries out illegal activities related to gasoline smuggling, mining and extortion,” says an NGO report.

Contain the emergence of illegal armed groups

Colombia stands out for being a country where illegal and fraudulent activities have increased their presence. As in the 1980s, the Colombian nation is the country that produces the most cocaine in the world, according to UN figures.

What’s more, illegal mining, smuggling and trafficking in people and animal species are also activities that thrive in this country. All these criminal acts lead to the emergence of illegal armed groups that are in charge of managing illegal movements and whose action generates an emergency that is difficult to contain.

The Government of Iván Duque points out to the international scene as a promoter of drug trafficking in the country, because the demand is concentrated in developed countries. “It is time for the international community to share responsibility,” Duque said recently.

The situation that Colombia is going through is serious, Therefore, it is not possible to speak of peace in their society, although although it is true, the facts are not comparable to the reality experienced by Colombians during the 60 years of confrontation between the State and insurgent movements.

“There is no return from war, but very localized conflicts that do not have the national scope of before, “announced Juanita Vélez, a researcher at the Core Foundation.

It is possible that the war has come to an end in Colombia, but peace is still a pending issue to be achieved.

Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.

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