Communities from the Arauca province joined anti-war protests amid guerrilla violence that has been terrorizing northeastern Colombia.
The community leaders who organized the protest additionally sought the attention from the government and international human rights organizations.
Some 1,200 people took to the streets in Puerto Jordan on Tuesday, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.
Another 500 people took part in protests in the hamlet of Botalon for the second day in a row.
#ATENCIÓN Los habitantes de Botalon, se desplaza a las calles solicitando que paren el conflicto armado.
— Arauca online (@Arauca_Online) January 3, 2022
Arauca se moviliza por la paz, Puerto Jordán, centro poblado de Arauquita. pic.twitter.com/n4NETu7Kwg
— Luis Eduardo Celis (@luchoceliscnai) January 4, 2022
“More regions are leaving fear behind and taking to the streets to ask for peace,” Mayerly Briceño, a community leader who organized the protests in Botalon, told newspaper El Espectador.
Protests also erupted in the town of Fortul, local news site Arauca Online reported.
Guerrilla violence continues
Alleged guerrilla violence continued despite the protests and calls on the ELN and FARC dissidents to negotiate an end to their armed conflict.
Local news site Arauca Hoy reported on Tuesday that the bodies of another two people had been found in Saravena, a municipality on the border with Venezuela.
The human rights chief of the Tame municipality said that some 50 people have gone missing since the violence broke out on Sunday.
Bodies were also found in Arauquita and Fortul, authorities confirmed on Monday.
Locals dismiss government response
Locals and church leaders dismissed the national government’s response to the deadly violence.
Defense Minister Diego Molano announced on Monday that the National Army would send another 600 troops to Arauca to strengthen the military presence in the region.
Briceño stressed the need for civilian authorities in the oil-rich but long-neglected province.
The state has absolutely no presence here. They come here to take care of the oil companies, to protect the oil and how it comes out, this is not about militarization. What we need is real state presence.
Social leader Mayerly Briceño
The social leader applauded the arrival of human rights officials who monitored the protests in Botalon and Puerto Jordan.
A human rights defender from Saravena, Sonia Lopez, applauded local authorities’ attempts to prepare shelters for families fleeing the rural parts of the municipality.
Peace activists urged the government of far-right President Ivan Duque to resume peace talks with the ELN, which effectively controls Arauca.
The fundamental solution is a peace process with the ELN that passes through Arauca, where its most important structure is located. They are not opposed to the peace process, the thing is that no government has been able to lead this process.
Armed conflict analyst Luis Eduardo Celis
Neitehr Duque nor his defense chief have given any indication they would be interested in a peace process with the ELN.