Colombia’s armed forces will not move into abandoned FARC territory until after January 1, the country’s military commander said Monday.
The governor of Antioquia announced in June already that the military was moving into FARC territory, a week after the guerrillas and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos first announced peace.
However, it is unclear what has happened since in the mostly remote areas where the FARC’s rule once was law.
A referendum held in October sank the peace deal, throwing the scheduled demobilization of the FARC and the virtually simultaneous military operations to assume territorial control in disarray.
While the peace deal was on hold and the guerrillas were held in pre-demobilization camps, apparent paramilitary groups began a terror campaign in former FARC territory, targeting community leaders and rights defenders.
Meanwhile, the authorities were nowhere to be seen, forcing some locals to form their own public security force.
On Friday, the United Nations already urged the military to “act swiftly” to prevent further bloodshed and the imposition of effective state authority in areas where in some cases the state has not been able to set foot in decades.
The FARC exercised control in approximately one third of the country and most areas where there are highly lucrative criminal activities like drug trafficking and illegal mining.
Months after reports came out indicating other illegal armed groups began taking over former FARC territory, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez announced that from January 1 “we will arrive in the areas of influence of the FARC and we will occupy them with military and police so that other groups don’t.”
The military’s so-called “Plan Victory” begins the day after the deadline of the FARC’s demobilization and will pay extra attention to the presence of guerrillas who refused to join their fellow-fighters in the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process.
The FARC was formed in 1964 as a 48-man army of Marxist farmers and has since grown to become the hemisphere’s largest and oldest guerrilla force.
The group signed a revised peace deal in late November and is currently waiting for congress to approve an amnesty law while organizing the transport of its troops and arms from the provisional pre-demobilization camps to the formal demobilization and disarmament camps.