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.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 9 AUG 2011

The strategic Colombian peninsula of La Guajira, a sought after departure point for drugs heading across the Caribbean, may be…

COLOMBIA / 13 JAN 2016

On January 10, Guatemalan political scientist Carlos Mendoza tweeted a series of graphs comparing Guatemala's steadily declining homicide rates with…

COLOMBIA / 17 AUG 2016

A Colombian guerrilla group has reportedly kidnapped nearly a dozen rice farmers and is holding them hostage in Venezuela, a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…