Some 2,000 members of the military have been sent to northern Colombia to facilitate the safe demobilization of 1,200 FARC guerrillas and prevent violence from other groups, local authorities and the military said Wednesday.
The 1,200 guerrillas are members of the FARC’s 5th, 18th, 38th and 58th block are expected to demobilize once a peace deal is signed between the rebels and the Colombian government.
The soldiers of the 7th Division will have to provide security for the demobilizing guerrillas and make sure other illegal armed groups, namely “Los Urabeños” and the ELN, fill the power vacuum left by the guerrillas.
The demobilizing FARC fronts are all active in the provinces of Antioquia, Cordoba and Choco, located in the northwest of the country and are set to demobilize and surrender their weapons in four special demobilization zones in the Uraba and Bajo Cauca regions in Antioquia.
In total, between 8,000 and 20,000 armed and disarmed FARC members could demobilize throughout the country.
In areas where the FARC have been particularly active in the cultivation of coca and security provision for drug traffickers, fears are that previous allies and foes, or criminal business partners could violently replace the FARC’s de facto authority or carry out an extermination campaign.
Additionally, drug trafficking groups could target the guerrillas to prevent them from giving up crucial information on the drug trafficking schemes that largely have financed their guerrilla war against the government since the early 1980s.
The FARC and the Santos administration last week signed an agreement on the rebels’ demobilization, disarmament and reintegration after more than four years of peace talks.
In this agreement, the United Nations were made responsible for the management of the special demobilization zones and the gathering of weapons that will be abandoned by the guerrillas.
The Marxist FARC, that also signed a bilateral ceasefire deal, has been fighting the Colombian state since 1964.
Once a peace deal is closed, the Colombian people will be asked to ratify the agreement in a vote, after which the FARC begin their demobilization procedures within a week.
The entire process will last 6 months after which guerrillas will either be taking part in reintegration processes or be held while on trial for human rights violations.
Colombia’s armed conflict, the longest-running in the Americas, has involved an array of illegal armed groups and has so far left more tha 265,000 Colombians dead and another 7 million displaced.
Peace talks with the much smaller far-left ELN rebel group are stuck in spite on an agreement on formal talks. The Urabeños, the largest successor group of the far-right paramilitary organization AUC, have also called for talks, but these calls have been rejected.