HomeNewsBriefFARC Rebels Pulling Out of Northern Colombia?
BRIEF

FARC Rebels Pulling Out of Northern Colombia?

COLOMBIA / 28 JUL 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Local officials in a FARC stronghold in northern Colombia have sounded the alarm about criminal groups moving in as rebels pull out in the run-up to a peace deal, an assertion that appears to be premature but raises valid questions about how the government will re-establish a state presence in the area.

Hernán Álvarez Uribe, mayor of the mountain town of Ituango (see photo below) in the department of Antioquia, said rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) had already pulled out of rural areas of the municipality, leaving residents at the mercy of criminals, reported Caracol. Details of the peace plan with the government are still being hammered out, but the FARC has agreed that its fighters will moved to concentration zones once a final agreement is reached.

“We are seeing a phenomenon of petty crime, theft, brawls, and for this reason we need an institutional presence in the small towns of La Granja and Santa Rita,” Álvarez Uribe said. “We understand that the [FARC’s] 36th and 18th Fronts are moving to the hamlet of Santa Lucía, a concentration zone hamlet.”

Concentration zones are areas where demobilized FARC fighters will gather to prepare for reintegration into civil society.

La Granja and Santa Rita are home to four thousand people and are located an hour and a half from the urban center of Ituango municipality, in the notorious Nudo del Paramillo region of northern Antioquia. The FARC have long been the only real authority in that remote area.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

Álvarez Uribe said the rebels “have stated that they will no longer intervene in justice-related issues … this will now be the responsibility of the state.” He said the government must fill that gap with an increased police and military presence and better access to the legal system.

In response to the mayor’s concerns, Antioquia Gov. Luis Pérez Gutiérrez said the state will move urgently to secure territorial control of areas the FARC leaves in order to avoid a takeover by other criminal groups or the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), FARC’s cousin guerrilla organization.

The FARC are “abandoning territories they have governed for 20 or 30 years,” Gutiérrez said. “These areas have paradoxically been left without anybody to implement order and justice.”

Gutierréz said his government would deploy to La Granja on July 30, accompanied by security forces and local government representatives. For three decades, not a single “police officer, soldier or governor” had set foot in the hamlet, he said.

The governor recently attended a security council with President Juan Manuel Santos and Medellín mayor Federico Gutiérrez, where a commitment was made to set up police outposts in hamlets abandoned by the FARC. 

“If we do not exert control over the peace process, it will get out of hand,” Gutierréz said. 

InSight Crime Analysis

A source in the Ituango area told InSight Crime that while a group of FARC fighters left La Granja and Santa Rita area last week, they had merely gone to receive FARC peace delegate Félix Antonio Muñoz, alias “Pastor Alape,” who was visiting Santa Lucía from the peace talks in Cuba. Most of those fighters have since returned, the source said.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Security Policy

He told InSight Crime that the Urabeños — the most powerful criminal organization in Colombia — have a limited presence in Ituango, where they have an interest in the local drug trade and illegal mining. But it doesn’t appear as though the Urabeños or other armed actors are stepping up their control of the area. The FARC has begun to disengage from local affairs after maintaining order for many years, the source said. This loosening of controls that included a prohibition of drug use is likely to have caused the spike in petty crime alluded to by Ituango’s mayor.

The guerrilla group’s historic influence in the Nudo del Paramillo is so strong that it will be difficult for other groups to set up shop there even after the FARC demobilizes. The task of maintaining law and order will fall to state forces — something Colombia’s military has acknowledged as one of its main “post conflict” challenges. It is yet to be seen if police and other civilian authorities will be able to move in to fill the void.

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 20 OCT 2011

Brazil's Federal Police discovered a cache of military-grade weapons buried on the outskirts of an indigenous Amazon village on the…

COLOMBIA / 16 NOV 2020

As part of the 2016 peace deal between Colombia's government and the FARC, which ended decades of war, thousands…

COLOMBIA / 18 OCT 2012

Colombia arrested seven alleged members of a transnational drug trafficking network, one of whom had links with the man suspected…

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…