As Colombia celebrated five years since the signing of the FARC peace accords, former guerrilla fighters and their families were displaced from their homes in Meta due to severe security risks.
On November 24, representatives of demobilized fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) sent a letter to President Iván Duque, asking to be urgently moved for security reasons from a reintegration camp.
The security situation at the Urías Rondón camp in La Macarena, in the central department of Meta, poses severe risks for those living there. On November 18, five vans belonging to guards providing security to the camp were set on fire. The guards, who are provided by the Colombian government, were also stripped of their weapons and communications equipment. The attacks were allegedly carried out by a faction of FARC dissidents, former fighters who have rejected the FARC's 2016 peace deal with Colombia's government. InSight Crime calls these criminal cells the ex-FARC Mafia.
The letter to Duque indicated that 106 families, including 64 children and a number of disabled and elderly people, have been displaced from their homes. However, they have not left the area because they have nowhere to go, Meta's Ombudsman, Jhorman Saldaña, told the press.
A photo published by the community on social media showed the empty camp. The photo accompanies a Twitter message: "The imminent risk has forced us to leave everything. The only thing we have done is comply with what was agreed to...we demand guarantees from the government beyond paperwork."
According to sources in the region cited by El Tiempo, the ex-combatants have been requesting to be transferred to another camp for demobilized fighters in the neighboring department of Caquetá.
There is precedent for such a move. In 2020, more than 200 demobilized fighters were forced to leave the Román Ruíz camp in Ituango, Antioquia, after 12 of their comrades had been killed in the area. The government prepared new facilities to receive them near Medellín.
InSight Crime Analysis
The ex-combatants are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The former fighters in Meta have been repeatedly killed and victimized. In October 2020, Juan de Jesús Monroy Ayala, a demobilized fighter, and his bodyguard were shot dead in La Uribe, Meta. The two men had aided in the reintegration process.
In mid-2020, 20 ex-combatants left their reincorporation spaces in Uribe, Meta, due to constant threats by criminal groups. This same group had already been relocated from Cauca in 2017 due to security conditions there.
And in 2018, an alert issued by Colombia's Ombudsman's Office denounced that FARC dissidents connected to Miguel Botache Santillana, alias "Gentil Duarte," were pressuring former fighters to rejoin the guerrilla group. Since then, other Farc dissident groups, such as the Segunda Marquetalia, have established a presence in the territory.
"Once again, we denounce that reincorporation is not possible without security guarantees, access to land ownership, housing and sustainable productive projects, which allow the effective enjoyment of fundamental rights," read a press release published by the Urías Rondón community on November 19.
According to Leonardo González and Juana Cabezas, of the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y Paz - Indepaz), the complex security situation in Meta is due to the department being of interest to several criminal groups. The area serves as the command center for several FARC dissident factions and contains key routes for drug trafficking and other illicit economies, the two researchers told InSight Crime.
Farc dissidents also have been known to pressure comrades in the reintegration process to rejoin, they said.
In November 2020, InSight Crime reported on how the numbers of former fighters were dwindling at camps across Colombia.