FARC dissident groups have swollen to contain some 2,300 members, Reuters reported Wednesday based on military documents.
According to the news agency, one third of the FARC that demobilized in 2016 have now formed more than 30 dissident factions throughout Colombia.
Experts question the accuracy of the report as not all members of the dissident groups would be FARC members, but include many newly recruited fighters.
Some 13,000 guerrillas and militia members formally entered the demobilization process in 2016, according to the United Nations, which monitors the process.
The FARC dissidents are guerrillas who, frustrated with the government’s slow implementation of the peace deal, decided to take up arms again – or never disarmed in the first place. They mostly focus on earning money from the cocaine trade or illegal mining.
“The 2,300 number is a decent estimate but I think it gets messy when people try to calculate the percentage of FARC fighters who go back [to fight],” International Crisis Group’s (ICG) senior Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson told Colombia Reports.
At least half of the 2,300 actually never made it on a list. They either never showed up to demobilized – around 800 fighters who kept going after the peace process started and there were around 300 new recruits.
ICG chief analyst Kyle Johnson
“I think the 2,300 figure is pretty good and I have to give the military intelligence credit where credit is due.
“But I think when Reuters or the military makes a percentage calculation it gets a bit messy and nuances get lost.”
The number of rebels in Colombia’s last-standing major leftist illegal armed group the ELN has also increased by nearly 8 percent to 2,400 since the end of last year, according to confidential military documents cited by the news agency.
Reuters further reported that, according to the military, there are now 31 FARC dissident groups operating throughout the country. Think tank Indepaz counted 18 in December last year.
Last year’s election of President Ivan Duque angered many former FARC members as the right-winger promised to overhaul the 2016 peace deal.
Duque’s subsequent efforts to amend the war crimes tribunal, the government’s chronic failures to reintegrate the fighters and the murders of more than 130 FARC members made many former guerrillas and militia members feel threatened.
The FARC’s political party, which launched after rebels put down their arms in 2017, has warned that ex-rebels are bitter that they cannot enter normal life – partly due to the government’s failure to implement promises in the peace deal.
United Nations estimates indicate that some 1,700 of 6,000 FARC guerrillas remain in the reintegration camps they built. Most of these men and women went back to their families, but hundreds could have rearmed.
FARC leader “Timochenko” last month called on the group’s members to stay in the peace process after the group’s former political leader “Ivan Marquez”, who has gone into hiding, said disarming before securing government compliance was a “serious mistake.”
Former President Juan Manuel Santos spent four years in talks with the FARC to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire and their transition to politics and civilian life.
Now, two-and-a-half years later and the peace process is shakier than ever as the Duque administration fails to keep promises made to former rebels.
The country is experiencing a wave of far-right violence and hundreds of human rights defenders and community leaders promoting the peace process have been murdered with impunity.
The FARC leadership, leftist and moderate sectors, and the United Nations have urged Duque to execute the process and to continue talks with remaining ELN guerrillas – but to little effect.