Almost 90 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities are extreme risk of violence in the event FARC rebels demobilize and will require rapid state intervention to prevent criminal power vacuums, according to conflict monitors.
More than a quarter of Colombia’s municipalities run some risk of violence if the FARC demobilizes.
This is mainly because once the guerrillas abandon drug trafficking and other criminal activity, dissident members or rival groups could violently try to take over the rebels’ criminal rackets.
In 88 municipalities, spread across 15 of Colombia’s 32 departments, this risk is “extreme,” according to the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (PARES), which has been monitoring the conflict.
“If in the first 12 months of the post-conflict there is no emergency plan in these towns, the same will happen as has happened in other peace processes; other violent actors will arrive,” Leon Valencia of PARES told newspaper El Tiempo.
This risk is highest along the impoverished Pacific coast, the Antioquia department that has a long history of paramilitary violence, and the south of the Bolivar department, which has long been disputed territory because of its strategic location for drug trafficking.
The other actors have already been making territorial moves in the three and a half years of peace talks with the FARC, earlier reports indicated.
The group has already positioned itself inside traditional FARC territory in central Colombia in spite of a major government offensive trying to arrest or kill the neo-paramilitary group’s leaders.
A second major threat is the ELN rebel group, which reportedly has already begun recruiting FARC guerrillas who see no benefits in peace with the government.
The group has been holding preliminary peace talks with the government since before June 2014, but these talks have so far failed to formalize.
While talking to the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, the ELN has also begun appearing in traditional FARC territory.
In the 88 flagged municipalities, the risk is elevated by the presence of groups like the ELN and the Urabeños, and the presence existing criminal activity like drug trafficking and illegal mining combined with extreme poverty and a lack of state presence.
The FARC and the Santos administration had promised to sign peace before Wednesday, but have been delayed in negotiations on “End of Conflict,” which includes the guerrillas’ demobilization and disarmament, and the government’s entry into FARC territory.