Posted by Adriaan Alsema on Feb 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Colombia risks ‘new era of violence’: Report

FARC attack

Colombia is at risk of entering a new era of guerrilla and drug-related violence if the government does not curb the increase in attacks by neo-paramilitary groups like the “Urabeños” and rebel groups like the FARC and ELN, a report released Wednesday said.

According to the latest report of research institute Nuevo Arco Iris, violent actions by both left-wing rebel groups and neo-paramilitary cartel-related groups increased in 2011.

The so-called BaCrim, a collection of neo-paramilitary groups and groups emerging from the now-defunct Norte del Valle cartel, carried out even more attacks than the guerrillas, Nuevo Arco Iris director Leon Valencia told media.

While the attacks of guerrillas are mainly focused on the security forces, the neo-paramilitaries attacked primarily civilians. According to the Nuevo Arco Iris report, 11,898 Colombians were forcefully displaced by the neo-paramilitary groups in 2011. 70% of the displacements took place in the northern Cordoba and Atlantico departments.

FARC attacks 1997 - 2011

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The FARC committed 2,148 offensive actions, in which 449 members of the security forces were killed and another 1,786 injured. According to Nuevo Arco Iris this represents a 10% increase compared to 2011. The research institute had earlier said that 2011 had been the most violent year regarding FARC violence in 15 years.

The neo-paramilitary and drug trafficking organizations are currently active in 209 of Colombia’s 1,103 municipalities in exactly the regions where the AUC were in control before its demobilization between 2003 and 2006.

Armed groups Colombia

The report criticized the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, particularly Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who according to Nuevo Arco Iris had failed to adequately combat the neo-paramilitary groups.

“We are at a crucial moment to deter a new era of violence,” Valencia told economic paper Portafolio, who said the armed forces should change their military strategy to both combat the FARC’s increasing hit-and-run attacks and at the same time curb the dominance of neo-paramilitary groups who continue to seek alliances with local economic elites and politicians throughout the country.

If not, warns Nuevo Arco Iris, Colombia may fall back into a period reminiscent of that between 1995 and 2005, when the actions by the army, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups caused unprecedented violence in the country, producing approximately 80% of the victims of Colombia’s nearly 50-year old armed conflict.