Peace with FARC marked ‘new phase of armed conflict’ in Colombia: report

ELN guerrillas (Image credit: YouTube)

Colombia’s peace deal with the FARC did not mean the end of the country’s almost 53-year-old armed conflict, but “a new phase of armed conflict” in the South American country, a report published on Wednesday said.

According to the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), an NGO dedicated to studying Colombia’s armed conflict, said that while it is evident the war with the FARC is over, new conflicts are emerging in seven regions of the South American country.

On the one hand, we are witnesses that the peace process has brought immense benefits in terms of reducing armed conflict, but on the other hand, we also see that in this changing context, other expressions of local and armed violence will continue to form with their respective shifts, disputes and alliances. Of course, we must be very careful in identifying what types of violence are continuity of the armed conflict and which are not.

Ideas for Peace Foundation

The regions where Colombia’s armed conflict continues unabated are along the Pacific coast, the eastern plains and coca-rich regions like Catatumbo and Bajo Cauca.

The FIP confirmed earlier reports that the west of the country is mainly suffering from the traditional armed conflict because of fighting between Marxist ELN guerrillas, the military and paramilitary group Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC).

Combat in west Colombia between guerrillas and paramilitaries displaces hundreds

However, in the southwest, the violence is mainly caused by FARC splinter groups, trying to maintain control while under pressure from both the authorities and drug trafficking organizations.

The east of the country is mainly disputed by dissident FARC fronts and paramilitary groups like the Bloque Meta and Libertadores de Vichada.

Colombia has suffered numerous armed conflicts since before the republic even existed, but in the current context, “the” armed conflict began in 1964 when the Colombian military attacked a commune in central Colombia.

The members of this rural commune subsequently formed the FARC. Since then other guerrilla groups have come and gone, while paramilitary groups formed in support of the political and economic establishment.

A 200-year history lesson to understand Colombia’s 52-year conflict

According to the FIP, the country is currently facing four types of armed conflict as a consequence of the demobilization of the FARC and the government’s slow response to assuming control in these territories.

What Colombia’s current armed conflicts are about

  • The shifting of territorial control from the FARC to other rebel groups like the ELN
  • The shifting of control over criminal operations abandoned by the FARC
  • The formation of FARC dissident groups
  • Political violence targeting local civil rights leaders

Much of the violence occurring in Colombia is taking place in remote regions, long neglected or even abandoned by the state.

To significantly diminish the violence, the FIP urged the importance of ending violence between the state and ELN, currently engaged in peace talks, and the improved prosecution of suspected killers of human or community rights leaders.

The government’s “Plan Victoria,” which seeks the establishment of state authority in remote areas, some of which are now disputed by illegal armed groups.

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