MORE SHADOWS THAN LIGHTS, AN ANALYSIS OF SECURITY IN COLOMBIA
By: Pares Editorial Team. Translated by: Rebecca Oswalt
The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación – Pares), deployed a team of more than 50 people throughout Colombia to carry out an investigation to provide an account of regional security in the country. The goal was threefold. First, the investigation aimed to analyze the first year of Iván Duque´s Administration. This evaluation included advances and setbacks in security matters and the Defense Policy presented at the beginning of the year which served as Duque’s greatest campaign promise.
Secondly, the report provides a record of the state of territorial security nearly three years after the signing of the Peace Agreement at Teatro Colón. Academics specializing in post-conflict studies divide this transitional period into two distinct moments. The first phase, known as Stabilization, encompasses the initial three years after the signing of an agreement.
Stabilization is a period in which it is critically important to control the security risks in post-conflict zones and prevent the emergence of illegal armed organizations that seek to seize the territories. Above all, during this time the government must be legitimized in the regions previously controlled by the armed groups, who have rejoined civil life. For the following seven years, the process of Normalization is enacted, which refers to a period of Reconciliation and national transformations brought on by the peace.
In theory, we are coming to the end of the Stabilization period. To determine the future of the post-conflict regions of the country, it is vital to consider the behavior of security indicators and the situations of the ELN, Organized Armed Groups, and post-war or dissident groups. It is also necessary to take stock of the persecution of social and human rights leaders, the security of former FARC combatants, and the dynamics of political violence in this election year.
In addition to those described above, the final objective of this report is to fact check and verify arguments. For example, in an interview with CNN, Senator Uribe stated that there were more than 5,000 FARC dissidents and potentially upwards of 15,000 ELN members. At first glance, these figures seem impossible, so further research was required to corroborate them. Also, in various parts of the country, social organizations have signaled the emergence, again, of paramilitary groups. These concerns should also be investigated. Consequently, it is necessary to paint a picture, as faithfully as possible, of the security situation in the country.
The three major conclusions of the Security Report
1. Of the 281 municipalities prioritized for post-conflict analysis by the Fundación Paz y Reconciliación – Pares, there are 123 in which the FARC had previously operated and have since been taken over by illegal armed groups and criminal organizations.
That is to say that there is another group of more than 150 municipalities where peace was won and the political violence has already been overcome. In fact, within these 123 municipalities there are several in which the rates violence related to the conflict are quite low. With actions by law enforcement and other state institutions, safety could be quickly recovered. Thus, of the 123 municipalities controlled by criminal groups, only 107 have true security issues.
2. Post-conflict zones can be divided into four categories based on their degree of criminal takeover:
• The first is a group of zones in which criminal takeover transpired almost immediately after the dispersion of the FARC from those regions. The Pacific region, Bajo Cauca, and Catatumbo are good examples of this occurrence.
• There were other areas where power grabs took place, which occurred 18 months after the departure of the FARC on average. Putumayo, some areas of Caquetá, and Vichada exemplify this trend. In the areas where the FARC had dominated, the price of coca paste fell sharply between 2017 and the first half of 2018 since “narcotraffickers” were no longer entering these regions. During those 18 months, the State did not establish its power over the area, and in the second half of 2018 the takeover took place.
• There were zones from which the FARC left and neither the State nor criminal organizations returned to govern. As a result, indicators of insecurity such as robbery, road thefts, and cattle raiding increased. However, there were no longer well-structured criminal organizations present, but they were rather common criminals. The South of Tolima region, several territories in the department of Valle del Cauca, and Huila are good examples of this phenomenon.
• The zones where the State did establish its control were mostly within the main population centers of these municipalities.
3. The peace process had an impressive impact on reducing several indicators of violence associated with armed conflict. The returns from the peace process were high. However, after almost three years since the signing of the Peace Agreement, security efforts must be strengthened to avoid a new wave of violence in the country.
It is not yet clear if the armed conflict that hit the country more than 50 years ago has been overcome. During the first year of Ivan Duque´s Administration, various indicators of violence have shown positive trends.
The eight themes of the report
Based on these three conclusions, la Fundación Paz y Reconciliación – Pares, assessed the status of security in Colombia. Eight (8) aspects were analyzed:
1. Data pertaining to the violence associated with the armed conflict. The team analyzed both national data as well as data specific to post-conflict municipalities prioritized by the Fundación Pares.
2. The team analyzed the situation of the post-farc groups (farc dissidents).
3. The situation of the ELN was also analyzed. Its presence, armed action, and evolution in the last three years.
4. The situation of the Organized Armed Groups, particularly that of the Gulf Clan.
5. The victimization of social leaders and human rights defenders.
6. The victimization of ex-combatants of the FARC, and the general policy of reinstatement.
7. Electoral political violence within the context of the October local elections.
8. The status of the National Comprehensive Plan for Crop Replacement.