The number of Colombian guerrillas surrendering to authorities in neighboring countries has increased.
Of some 1,000 rebels who have demobilized this year, at least 30 handed themselves in to authorities in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama, according to El Tiempo.
General Jose Roberto Leon Riano explained that the increase is due to Colombian military pressure causing rebel groups to flee to border areas, where fighters are more likely to demobilize.
Colombia’s government last week initiated a plan for dealing with these desertions abroad, and invited neighboring countries to a meeting to discuss the measures. Only Venezuela did not attend.
“We do not plan to create a rehabilitation program in every country, but want to spread knowledge of the existence of these initiatives in the border regions,” said Deputy Minister of Defense Rafael Guarin.
Guarin added that those guerrillas who surrender in the neighboring countries will be returned to Colombia as deportees.
In one incident last year Panama extradited four Colombian FARC guerrillas, including a 13-year-old indigenous girl, who had been active in the Darien region between the two countries.
The Colombian government claims that more than 2,600 fighters deserted illegal armed groups in 2009, with over 2,100 of these being from the FARC.
After the army’s killing of FARC military leader “Mono Jojoy” in September, President Juan Manuel Santos made a statement directed at the guerrillas, telling them “Don’t continue this madness, demobilize. Return to your families. The state will be flawless until the last moment, but at the same time holds out a helping hand because what we want is peace.”