Two were killed when Colombia’s demobilizing FARC rebels clashed with deserted guerrillas of the same organisation, local media reported on Wednesday amid further claims that paramilitary successor groups are moving in on rebel territory.
According to Caracol Radio, an armed group of 30 dissidents from the 14th front under the leadership of “Mojoso” attacked the Teofilo Forero unit of the FARC in the southern Caqueta province.
Local eyewitnesses reportedly said there were two fatalities during the clash.
The authorities in Caqueta have reportedly asked for the Mechanism of Monitoring and Verification of the United Nations that oversees the FARC demobilization to investigate the alleged incident.
The military, in charge of the FARC’s security, did not comment and also the UN wouldn’t immediately confirm the fighting.
The 30 alleged members of the FARC ‘s 14th Front has apparently declared that it would leave the FARC following the signing of a peace deal with Colombia’s government.
The group is allegedly active in San Vicente del Caguan, Cartagena del Chaira and Puerto Rico, all municipalities in Caqueta.
On Wednesday, members of the FARC secretariat including “Joaquin Gomez,” “Pablo Catatumbo” and “Rodrigo Granda” traveled to the area where the Teofilo Forero are due to demobilize to analyze this situation and decide what action to take to prevent further outbreaks of violence.
The FARC have publicly ousted the group’s 1st front and warned about other minor desertions for failure to comply with the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) process.
For units who decide not to demobilize within the period agreed they may face military offensives from the army and the air force against them.
Meanwhile, guerrilla commanders at a pre-grouping demobilization area in the southwestern municipality of Tumaco, Nariño have denounced the presence of “paramilitaries” in the area allegedly setting their sights upon previous FARC territory.
In spite the most recent claims and the ongoing killing of human rights defenders and social leaders, Colombia’s Minister of Defense insisted that “in Colombia there is no “paramilitarism,” only “organized crime.”
Not only in Tumaco, in Colombia there is no paramilitarism. To say that there is, is to grant political recognition to bandits dedicated to common and organized delinquency.”
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas
To the contrary, the guerrilla commanders claimed that in some parts of the Tumaco such as El Pital and El Firme, “there is a presence of between 50 and 80 paramilitaries with camouflage and rifles,” reported El Espectador, a trend which is said to be prevalent right across the province.
Additionally, the situation is said to be similar in the province of Antioquia with the Coordinator of the Ituango Peasant Association telling Caracol Radio that there is a presence of paramilitaries in the municipality with the people in Toledo, Santa Ana, Santa Rita and San Marcos also on alert.
“This municipality is a strategic corridor that has fought illegal groups along the roads, so they are looking to control the corridors and behind that, illegal crops, as they want to take control and force peasants to sow coca,” explained Edilberto Gomez.
Having funded much of their half century long war against the Colombian state with profits made from illicit crops, the demobilization and surrender of the FARC has inevitably left a power vacuum.
The failure of the government of Alvaro Uribe to effectively demobilize the AUC paramilitary group led to the creation of various splinter groups who are now seeking to profit from the surrender of the FARC and to dominate the drug trade.
In order for the conditions of the peace accord between the FARC and the government to be fulfilled, the government must ensure that these groups do not move into the space left by the FARC.
This coupled with what could possibly be the beginning of attacks by dissident FARC makes the implementation of the agreement all the more complex.
The FARC’s 180-day DDR process is part of a major, 10-year national peace process that seeks to end more than 52 years of drug-fueled violence that has left more than 8 million victims.