FARC attacks decrease as peace talks progress

Attacks attributed to Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, decreased in April as rebel and government negotiators were aiming to advance in the ongoing peace talks.

Last month, Colombia Reports registered 42 attacks attributed to the FARC, down from 56 the month before. Meanwhile, the smaller ELN rebel group launched four attacks, a decrease from seven in March.

Rebel attacks per month

Thirty soldiers and policemen, and 16 civilians were killed in rebel actions during the month. Most affected by rebel violence was the northeastern Arauca department, with ten rebel attacks, the southwestern Cauca department, with nine, and the northwestern Antioquia department, in which five attacks were registered.

The northern Bolivar department saw several violent rebel actions. On April 4, ELN rebels claimed to have killed four soldiers in the Norosi municipality, where a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in January. Furthermore, on April 26, ELN rebels killed two suspected auxiliaries of neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” in the Montecristo municipality. A local police commander said this attack signaled the end of a ELN-Urabeños alliance in the region.

Location of rebel attacks

Only one rebel attack against Colombia’s economically important oil industry was registered during the course of the month. In the southwestern Putumayo department, FARC rebels struck against the Transandino oil pipeline in April, causing an extensive oil spill.

April rebel attacks per day

FARC negotiators and the Colombian government are currently involved in peace talks in Havana, Cuba, to reach an end to nearly half a decade of armed conflict. The warring parties are yet to reach an agreement on comprehensive agrarian reform, the first and perhaps most controversial issue on the agenda.  On Tuesday, FARC negotiator “Jesus Santrich” said a written agreement on the agrarian issue could be reached by the end of May.

FARC rebels stepped up attacks in the months before the peace talks were announced in early September last year.  However, since the peace talks began, FARC attacks have diminished steadily, despite a brief spike after the rebels called off a two-month ceasefire in January, perhaps indicating many FARC Fronts are just biding their time before a possible peace accord. According to the conflict-monitoring NGO Nuevo Arco Iris, FARC attacks against the oil industry surged in the months before the peace talks in order to persuade oil companies to lobby for peace talks with the government. Since the talks began, FARC attacks against the oil sector have decreased sharply.

Meanwhile, official statistics indicate the number of FARC and ELN desertions have grown sharply during 2013. Colombia’s ministry of defense reported a 12% increase of rebels giving up arms during the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. In total, 304 rebels surrendered during the time period.

Additionally, mid-ranking FARC commanders have been said to have sold off cocaine franchises in a bid to legalize the organization’s sources of income before a peace deal is struck with the government. According to the Colombian army, the FARC’s increased involvement in gold mining is a sign of this legalization process.

According to Colombian authorities, there is confusion in the rebel ranks as to why FARC leaders are seated with the government in Havana. The commander of the Colombian air force (FAC), General Tito Saul Pinilla, said in an interview with newspaper El Pais the FARC lacked effective leadership over the various rebel Fronts.

“There are Fronts that are uninformed…they do not know why there are important leaders seated in [Havana]; there are Fronts that have no idea that there is a peace process,” Pinilla said.

Sources

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