HomeNewsBriefColombia's Last Guerrillas Fight Over Cocaine Hub
BRIEF

Colombia's Last Guerrillas Fight Over Cocaine Hub

COLOMBIA / 19 MAR 2018 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

On the same day that Colombia’s biggest guerrilla group, the ELN, resumed peace talks with the government, reports emerged of a battle between the rebels and former guerrillas embedded in the main cocaine hub on the Venezuela border: the region of Catatumbo.

The fighting -- between the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) and the former insurgents from the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Popular – EPL) on March 15 -- resulted in at least six deaths in the embattled region in the Norte de Santander department of northeast Colombia, El Espectador reported. The clashes occurred in Teorama municipality, according to El Colombiano.

The spate of violence followed a failed meeting between the two groups, according to Colombia's top military commander, General Alberto José Mejía.

“No agreement was reached between [ELN and EPL] leaders and they decided to start killing each other,” Mejía said, adding that they were fighting over “drug trafficking, cocaine and the control of illegal crops.”

SEE ALSO: EPL Profile

Over the past few days, fighting between the two groups has affected 17,000 people in the municipalities of San Calixto, El Tarra, Teorama, Convención, Hacarí, El Carmen and Tibú, according to a United Nations report. The clashed have caused civilian and military casualties, and displacements.

Map of the affected area c/o UN OCHA

After several weeks of turmoil, the government and the ELN resumed peace talks in Ecuador on March 15.

InSight Crime Analysis

Both the ELN and the EPL, also known as the “Pelusos,” are involved in drug trafficking in Catatumbo, which has some of the densest coca fields in the country. Nowhere in the world is cocaine so cheap to produce, and its border with Venezuela provides a perfect drug route and refuge for armed fighters.

Until recently, this type of fighting was relatively uncommon in this coveted corner of Colombia. The now-demobilized FARC, the ELN, and the EPL have cohabited in Catatumbo for years under a relatively fragile non-violence agreement.

If clashes continue, victimizing the civilian population, they will further undermine the ongoing peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government, talks that have already hit major snags. Violent actions by the ELN's more belligerent factions caused the talks to be suspended until recently.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 3 SEP 2012

Suspected FARC members have bombed a key stretch of railroad used to transport coal in the north of Colombia, continuing…

COLOMBIA / 16 NOV 2014

The Colombian border town of Cucuta has smuggling coursing through its veins, underpinning its economy and strengthening organized crime, which…

COLOMBIA / 29 NOV 2011

Venezuela captured one of Colombia's top drug traffickers just hours before President Juan Manuel Santos was set to visit Caracas;…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…