The FARC’s 1st Front reiterated its rejection of ongoing peace talks with Colombia’s government this week. But they’re not the only “problem front.” Other guerrilla units are suspected to follow suit.
While the national news media did not pick up on the 1st front’s refusal until this week, Colombia Reports reported on the group’s refusal to demobilize in 2015 already.
The vast majority of the FARC’s approximately 60 fronts are expected to continue to obey orders from their leadership and in some cases have explicitly expressed support for the ongoing peace talks, but not all.
According to conflict analyst NGO Paz y Reconciliacion, the 16th front, active in the east of the country, and the 57th front, active along the Panamanian border, could also ignore orders to demobilize.
All three units are deeply involved in drug trafficking or illegal mining, criminal enterprises of the guerrillas they vow to abandon once a peace deal is signed and the group’s members will prepare for civilian life.
Ariel Avila, an investigator of Paz y Reconciliacion, said Thursday that the elevated risk of non-compliance with the 1th and 57th Front of the FARC is due to the fact “their commanders are very new and not part of the old guard. Moreover, they are surrounded by criminal enterprises” like drug trafficking and illegal mining.
“In these fronts, the people are afraid of peace as the rest of Colombians. Ordinary people fear the FARC will not comply with the agreements while the guerrillas fear the state will not comply and that the paramilitaries will assassinate them,” Avila told Russian state-controlled news agency Sputnik.
To curb this fear, the leadership of the FARC has consistently urged the dismantling of “paramilitary structures” consisting of successor groups of the paramilitary AUC and their allies within the military and local political clans.
Part of the fear is based on the FARC’s failed and traumatic entry into politics in the 1980s.
After the guerrillas helped other leftist forces to found the Patriotic Union political party, thousands of its members, including two presidential candidates, were assassinated, making this one of the bloodiest political extermination campaigns since La Violencia in the 1940s and 50s.
The Colombian government has already begun increasing its military action against groups like “Los Urabeños,” a group founded by disgruntled former members of the AUC that has since grow to at least 3,000 armed members.
The neo-paramilitaries this year began several military campaigns targeting guerrilla units in areas that are important for criminal activity like the Pacific coast and the north of the Antioquia province.
The Colombian military has already begun moving troops to areas where FARC fronts are expected to be demobilizing in order to provide security for demobilizing guerrillas and make sure there is a smooth transition of authorities where the FARC has long been the de facto authority and criminal power vacuums could be created once the rebels demobilize.
However, it is uncertain to what extent Colombia’s military is able to provide security and begin consolidating state presence in the mainly remote areas that have long been under control by Latin America’s largest guerrilla group.