“In 2010 to date there have been 79 homicides, which places the department of Arauca on a national level as the place with the most violent deaths per 100,000 residents,” said Colombia’s Ombudsman Volmar Perez.
One confrontation earlier this week between the two leftist-guerrilla groups left 20 people dead; nine guerrillas, three of whom were underage youths, and eleven civilians, Perez said.
The department’s most affected cities, Perez noted, include Arauca (the department’s capital), Arauquita, Saravena and Tame.
In addition to civilian deaths, which the official said were the result of rebels accusing civilians of collaborating with rival guerrilla groups, the FARC-ELN fighting has also caused forced displacements, restricted the mobility of the area’s residents, produced injuries from land mines, and destroyed personal property.
One recent FARC-ELN confrontation, Perez said, displaced 194 people, forcing them to seek refuge in a school in the rural area of Arauquita.
Perez has called on Colombian authorities to adopt effective and preventative measures to protect the department’s residents in light of the renewed fighting.
Relations between the FARC and ELN have been calm since 2006, but have become more violent recently, and are expected to worsen since FARC leader German Briceño, alias “Grannobles,” ordered “total war” against the ELN.