Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said Wednesday the armed forces will remain in the war-torn southwestern Cauca department following FARC attacks and criticism from the indigenous population in the region.
“We have to keep going onward, keep on going against these base areas that the FARC established decades ago, we will make more efforts. In the last two months more than 2,000 men of the armed forces have arrived in Cauca and we will consider if we have to send more troops to keep guaranteeing security, but it remains clear that we can’t lower the guard,” said Pinzon in a press release from the defense ministry.
The defense minister, speaking from the Toribio municipality in northern Cauca, criticized the recent FARC attacks “against the population in the municipalities of northern Cauca” and said these were “cowardly actions” due to the operations that the armed forces were launching in the FARCs “base areas.”
Last week’s fighting between FARC guerrillas and state forces left dozens wounded and hundreds displaced.
“To launch indiscriminate attacks against children and attack public spaces where with certainty there are civilians are very serious deeds, they are crimes against human rights, they are deeds that motivate an articulated answer on the behalf of the public force,” the defense minister continued.
On Tuesday indigenous residents of the Toribio municipality in northern Cauca demanded the FARC and armed forces leave their municipality, arguing that the fighting between the armed actors put the community members’ lives at risk.
Pinzon did not explicitly mention indigenous demands in his comments, but claimed the best solution to the problems of public order was to “increase the amount of troops,” while also pointing to the need of “human development” for the people in this department.
Pinzon claimed the armed forces had “hit hard” against FARC guerrillas in the Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments in the past, giving the example of FARC top leader “Alfonso Cano’s” killing in November 2011 in Cauca’s Suarez municipality, just some 20 miles south of Colombia’s third largest city Cali.
The fighting in the northern part of the Cauca department continued on Tuesday night when an alleged FARC attack killed a minor and wounded several police officers, while a civilian helicopter was believed to have been shot down by the presumed rebels.