On Saturday, the local and international press reported that the final group of FARC guerrillas, numbering around 300 combatants, from Frentes 3, 14 and 15 arrived at Agua Bonita, Caquetá, bringing to an end the massive mobilization of men and women from their clandestine camps deep in the Colombia jungles and voluntarily arriving at the 26 UN zones of concentration around the country.
This effort took over three weeks and 36 different operations as 6,900 members of the FARC moved to their new homes to disarm, demobilize and slowly…reintegrate into society. The process of creating and registering IDs for these people has begun.
And while the images of this “revolutionary migration” have generated spine-tingling moments and hope for many Colombians. There is a sinister and altogether avoidable issue which is most troubling. Who is now in control?
With the departure of the FARC, formerly the de facto authority in these outlying, overlooked and it’s reasonable to say, areas abandoned by the Colombian state, there is now a startling power vacuum.
On February 10, some 96 families were displaced from their homes in the towns of Tibú and Teorama in the department of Norte de Santander.
153 members of the Wounaan Nonam people in Santa Rosa de Guayacán displaced from their homes on February 11 to the pacific port city of Buenaventura.
In 2016 more than 70 human rights defenders and community activists were assassinated. In 2017, this chilling figure could well increase.
And while Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had promised thorough military presence in each of the problem areas where the FARC would leave a significant power struggle for control of strategic transshipment routes and coca producing regions, it appears that on the ground, far from Bogotá, the reality is strikingly different.
Where are the increased patrols, increased military presence in the regions and confrontations to keep the paramilitary, Bacrim, post-paramilitary and armed gangs at bay?
Now, the Colombian state and the powers that be can never have been accused of paying too much attention to outlying Colombia, unless of course it is for some financial gain. In fact, historically the State’s activities have hardly been profligate in outer Colombia.
Which begs the question, is the Colombian Government completely blind to the regions or is it ignoring the countryside on purpose to protect financial interests in the regions through a new and increased reign of fear? Is there a tacit approval by the State for the post-paramilitary and their presence in areas of high value?