Conflicts & War

Colombia suffers surge in violence ahead of legislative elections

By Jorge Gil Angel

Bogota, Feb 26 (EFE).- With two weeks to go before congressional elections, Colombia is experiencing an increase in violence by leftist guerrillas and by right-wing paramilitaries with ties to organized crime.

While the usual targets of the guerrillas are the security forces, the paramilitaries focus on social and community activists and on demobilized former members of the FARC, Colombia’s largest insurgency prior to the November 2016 peace accords.

Carlos Enrique Moreno, a professor at Bogota’s Universidad Javeriana, told Efe that the groups escalate their activities at election time to undermine public confidence in the government.

“It’s a show of force. Not so much that they are strong … but it has the connotation of demonstrating the incapacity of authorities,” he said.

This week saw the ELN rebel group carry out a series of bombings that disrupted transportation in several regions of Colombia as part of what the guerrillas call an “armed general strike.”

The Institute of Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz) catalogued 56 individual acts by the ELN against roads and vehicles.

Paradoxically, according to Moreno, the demobilization of the FARC has contributed to instability, as the rebels once ensured a measure of security in the areas they controlled.

“With the dismantling and the exit of a great part of the members of the FARC, security was left a little uncertain and local and national authorities did not necessarily manage to replace that authority which the FARC provided,” he said.

“And that opened the possibility that other kinds of forces tried to occupy the territory,” the professor said.

In Arauca province, bordering Venezuela, a battle for control between the ELN and FARC renegades who renounced the peace accords has left more than 100 people dead so far this year.

While in Putumayo, on the border with Ecuador, a group of FARC veterans who accepted demobilization came under attack Thursday during a gathering in one of the areas established by the government for the reintegration of former combatants.

Rodrigo Londoño, who as the FARC’s then-commander negotiated the peace accords with the Colombian government, said that one person was killed and several others wounded.

“We demand security guarantees for the territory,” a person who survived the attack told Efe, adding that the army took three hours to respond to a call for help.

Five grassroots leaders have been slain in recent days, bringing to 31 the death toll since Jan. 1, Indepaz said. EFE jga-lmg/dr

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