Turf wars generating humanitarian crises throughout Colombia

Screenshot ELN propaganda video (Image: YouTube)

Turf wars that have intensified in different parts of Colombia are generating new waves of humanitarian crises.

Since Sunday, more than 800 people have been forced to flee their homes from the Ituango locality in northern Antioquia alone due to fighting between AGC paramilitaries and dissident FARC guerrillas.

The violence in Ituango had already triggered the displacement of demobilized FARC guerrillas who were taking part in a reintegration program in the war-torn locality.

In Vigia del Fuerte, a locality less than 100 miles west of Ituango, the AGC is combating ELN guerrillas, putting the lives of more than 300 locals at risk.

These latest outbursts of armed conflict add to a two-week crisis in the northeastern Catatumbo region, where the ELN and multiple armed rivals have been fighting for two weeks.

In this region, an additional shutdown by the regional EPL guerrilla group has disallowed locals to work the land or buy food while children are unable to go to school.

Three weeks ago, some 2,500 people were displaced from several rural communities in the southwestern Nariño province and dozens were displaced in the southern Putumayo province amid violence between FARC dissidents and drug traffickers.

The recent outbreaks are a continuation of violence in territories where the FARC used to be in control until their demobilization in 2017.

The National Army appears to lack the capacity or ability to fill the power vacuum left by the demobilized guerrillas.

Additionally, the army has been in transition since 2016 to deal with post-FARC security threats, but appears to be caught off guard by the rapidly changing dynamics of the armed conflict.

Illegal armed groups appear to be trying to take advantage of this by filling the power vacuum, which is causing tensions and clashes at different times and in different places throughout the country.

The national government, additionally, has been reluctant to implement the peace deal with the FARC that includes elements that would facilitate improved public security.

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