Some 800 peasants have been forced to abandon their lands or have been
caught in the middle of clashes between army troops and guerrilla or
paramilitary groups in the southwestern town of Barbacoas.
The armed combat is intense and began two weeks ago, the Consultancy
for Human Rights and Displacement, or Codhes, a non-governmental
organization that documents and investigates the displacement
phenomenon in Colombia, said in Bogota.
The branch of the
International Committee of the Red Cross in Nariño province, where
Barbacoas is located, and local authorities “have counted a total of
800 people between those who have had to abandon their lands and those
who have been trapped by the fighting,” Codhes added.
said the ICRC’s sub-delegate in the region, Serge Thierry, indicated
that “the situation of armed conflict in the region is very worrying
for residents and the displaced.”
“For many, the only way out
has been to abandon their lands and lose everything,” said Thierry,
whose office is in Pasto, the capital of Nariño, a province that
Colombian security forces reportedly are
battling Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, leftist
guerrillas and far-right paramilitary fighters in that area of the
Colombia, which is second only to Sudan in the number
of internally displaced people, saw 270,675 people forced from their
homes during the first half of this year, up 41 percent over the same
period in 2007, Codhes said in a report in late September.
figures show an exponential increase in displacement,” CODHES president
Marco Romero told Efe at the time, pointing to an upward trend
coinciding with the tenure of rightist President Alvaro Uribe, who took
office in 2002 and is now more than halfway through his second
Causes of the rise in forced displacement
include the re-emergence of right-wing paramilitaries despite the 2006
demobilization pact between the AUC militia federation and the Uribe
government, CODHES said in that September report.
The group also blames the FARC, Colombia’s biggest leftist insurgency.
origin of Colombia’s civil strife dates back to 1948, when the
assassination of popular politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan spurred a
10-year-long civil war known as “La Violencia.”
About six years
after that conflict ended with a power-sharing pact between Colombia’s
two main parties, a government offensive against peasant self-defense
groups led Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, who was pursued by death squads
during La Violencia, to form the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia, or FARC.
The AUC came together in the 1990s from militias formed by landowners and industrialists to defend their property from the FARC.
flight to escape combat remains a force driving displacement in
Colombia, it appears to be declining in importance relative to other
Last year, the Norwegian Refugee Council, a respected
private foundation, said that “forced displacement of civilians in the
Americas is less a byproduct of fighting between armed groups than a
military objective serving political and economic ends.”