Colombia rebel group FARC has stepped up its attacks against security forces and infrastructure to a level that exceeded the level of violence preceding the announcement of peace talks with the government in August.
Colombia Reports’ conflict monitor has registered the attacks reported in Colombia’s national, regional and local media and found that the rebels reportedly carried out 33 attacks on security forces and infrastructure in the week following the January 20 end of the ceasefire that was unilaterally called in November.
Before announcing the peace talks in August, the guerrillas had also stepped up the number of attacks, but not to the level registered between January 20 and January 26, the first week after the end of the truce.
In the second week of August — the most violent week of 2012, the conflict monitor registered 27 attacks. Since then, the number of reported offensive actions dropped significantly.
Most affected by the latest surge in violence were the southern departments of Putumayo and Cauca, the northwestern Antioquia department and Norte de Santander in the northeast of the country.
Eight of the attacks were directed at the country’s oil and mining industry.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, are currently involved in negotiations with the Colombian government to put an end to half a century of armed conflict.
The formal negotiations began in November in the Norwegian capital Oslo and have since then continued in Cuba’s capital Havana.
Some, like Colombian ex-president Andres Pastrana, have claimed the FARC were deeply divided regarding the question of seeking a negotiated peace with the Colombian state.
Top FARC commander “Timochenko,” however, said in a recent interview the organization was “not divided or anything similar.”
“There is not a single declaration from “Joaquin Gomez” or “Fabian Ramirez” expressing some discrepancy with the rest of the FARC’s Higher Central Command,” he said.
Almost all the FARC peace negotiators belong to the Caribbean and Eastern Blocs of the FARC and the organization’s “international commission,” which is largely based in Venezuela.
Many leading representatives from some of the FARC’s most important fighting units, like the Western, Southern and Northwestern Blocs, have been noticeably absent from the negotiation table.
Some fronts of the FARC allegedly ignored the Secretariat’s order not to attack against public security forces. According to Colombia’s Ombudsman Colombia’s Ombudsman, FARC rebels “broke the ceasefire on 57 occasions,” although Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, said the FARC “had complied with the ceasefire, but with exceptions.”
On Friday, Marquez said there were “diagnostic coincidences” with the government in regard to rural, agrarian reforms, while Timochenko said the FARC was “fully committed to peace.”
However, if there are advances in the peace talks, FARC attacks seem to continue.
On Friday morning, two policemen disappeared in the Pradera mountains of the southwestern Valle del Cauca department, some 20 miles east of Colombia’s third largest city, Cali. A few hours later, sources within the police confirmed the policemen had been taken hostage by the FARC’s Gabriel Galvis Column.
The rebel actions in January were mainly aimed at “soft” targets, like economic infrastructure and small police units.
These attacks were in line with the military strategy outlined by killed FARC leader “Alfonso Cano” in 2008.
Cano considered the old-school FARC tactic, where thousands of FARC guerrillas would surround large army units, propagated by “Manuel Marulanda,” “El Negro Acacio” and “Mono Jojoy,” outdated as the group had lost most territorial control during an offensive by paramilitary groups in the 1990s and the subsequent army offensive in the first decade of this century.
Instead, the deceased FARC commander outlined a new strategy, called “plan rebirth,” in which small groups of rebels perform acts of sabotage while ambushing isolated army units with sniper rifles and landmines.
According to the conflict-monitoring NGO Nuevo Arco Iris, FARC attacks against public forces have increased every year since the change in strategy.