FARC threatens to disavow renegade units

A threat to the Colombian peace talks emerged this month, as some FARC units unilaterally attacked government forces and declared their non-compliance with the ceasefire—in repudiation of the guerilla army's high command. On July 8, a unit of the FARC's 55th Front attacked troops of the army' 2nd Mobile Brigade in the vereda (hamlet) of Candilejas, Uribe municipality, Meta department. An uncertain number of casualties on the guerillas' side was reported. The government's chief peace negotiator, Humberto De la Calle, said the attack was "an error on the part of the FARC," and that the guerillas' chief negotiator Iván Márquez had taken responsibility for it. (El Colombiano, July 12; El Tiempo, El Espectador, July 11) 

Simultaneously, the FARC's "Armando Rios" 1st Front in Guaviare department issued a statement saying that it will refuse to disarm, and called on other guerilla fronts to oppose the peace process. The statement said the talks are aimed at disarming the guerillas and not "thinking of solutions for the social and economic problems of the country." The 1st Front is thought to have no more than 60 fighters, out of the FARC's total of some 7,000. Its commander Gentil Duarte had actually visited Havana as part of a peace delegation. Colombian media speculated that the real reason for rejecting the ceasefire is the front's desire to maintain control of the local cocaine trade and other illegal enterprises. (BBC News, July 9; CCTV, Contagio Radio, July 8; Caracol, July 6)

FARC command quickly issued a statement warning that units defying the peace process will be expelled. "Declaring oneself beyond the authority of the leadership places the person who does so outside" the guerilla army, the statement said. Those whe refuse to demobilize will be barred from using the FARC's "name, weapons and goods." 

President Juan Manuel Santos warned that fighters who do not demobilize would be wiped out by the Colombian military. "I assure you, they will end up in the grave or in jail," he said in a speech. (World Bulletin, July 9)

On July 18, Colombia's Constitutional Court approved the planned plebescite to approve a final peace accord by popular vote. The court said that the peace accord would have to be approved by 13% of the country's 33 million eligible voters. (RCI, July 19) The ruling came three days after a "Yes To Peace" march drew some 15,000 to the streets of Medellín. (El Colombiano, July 16; El Espectador, July 14

Also part of a popular mobilization for peace is a reckoning with past atrocities. A group of survivors gathered on July 9-10 at the vereda of Samaná in San Carlos, Antioquia municipality, to recall the 33 documented massacres that took place there (defined as mass killings of at least four) along with assassinations, disappearances, sexual violence and forced displacement between 1998 and 2005. Of the massacres, 23 are attributed to the Metro Bloc paramilitaries, accounting for 156 killed; and six to the FARC's 9th Front, accounting for 42 fatalities. (El Espectador, July 9)

But ongoing paramilitary activity also poses a threat to peace. In Turbo municipality of northern Urabá region, campesinos petitioning for restoration of lands usurped by paramilitaries are being taregted for threats and violent attacks. In Guacamayas vereda, a home was set on fire July 7, precipitating a brief shoot-out between presumed paras and army troops—with the commuity's residents caught in the middle. (El Colombiano, July 6)