Dissident elements of Colombia's FARC rebel group reportedly kidnapped a member of a United Nations delegation, signaling the breakaway faction's intention to continue its armed struggle even as the guerrilla demobilization moves forward.
In a May 4 press release, Colombia's Post-Conflict Ministry said a UN official identified as Arley López was kidnapped in the southern department of Guaviare.
The official was part of a delegation of UN and government officials who were meeting with roughly 400 farmers in the town of Miraflores to discuss a crop substitution program. Post-Conflict Minister Rafael Pardo told journalists that the official was expected to be released later that same day.
The UN official was reportedly kidnapped by dissident guerrillas belonging to the 1st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).
The 1st Front was the first to publicly announce in July 2016 that it would not participate in the dembolization process between the FARC and the government. The two sides agreed to a final peace deal last November and guerrilla fighters are now in concentration zones as part of the transition to civilian life.
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Guaviare Police Commander José Antonio González said the rebels took López in order to "facilitate information about the substitution of crops." But the kidnapping also conveys a much more profound message about the future of the FARC dissidency.
There have been longstanding concerns that breakaway FARC factions would join up with neo-paramilitary gangs known as "bandas criminales," or BACRIM, in order to continue bringing in profits from illegal activities. This is known as the "FARCRIM" scenario, and it would entail certain guerrilla elements becoming purely criminal organizations.
Yet the recent kidnapping indicates that at least some breakaway FARC factions, the 1st Front chief among them, are intent on maintaining the guerrillas' Marxist ideology and armed struggle.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace
The 1st Front has been consistent with this message since it announced it would not go along with the peace process last year. InSight Crime recently obtained a letter signed by the 1st Front and several other dissident fronts declaring that "the objective for us is to reach socialism." It went on to reject the notion that it has become a criminal outfit by stating, "We are not a franchise. We are a people in arms."
Our recent field research also found that the 1st Front is resolving disputes among community members and carrying out alternative forms of justice in its areas of influence.