Paramilitary presence in Catatumbo after FARC move to concentration zone

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 13 February 2017

Community members in Catatumbo, north-east Colombia, reported the arrival of 15 armed individuals, identifying themselves as paramilitaries, on 10 February after the 33rd Front of the FARC relocated to a concentration zone as part of the peace process.

The declaration by the paramilitary group that "they would take control" of the area has generated panic in the community, forcing some to displace to the local town. Faced with a lack of response from Colombian authorities, the local community took the initiative to create their own Verification Commission to verify reports. More than 500 peasant farmers including members of the Patriotic March, the Catatumbo Peasant Farmer Association and local Community Action Committees, reaffirmed the reports of paramilitary presence.

For the community of Catatumbo, which lived through horrific paramilitary violence in the 1990s - leaving more than 100,000 people displaced, 10,000 assassinated and more than 600 disappeared - the reappearance of paramilitaries is not only a threat but a terrifying reminder of the past. The community have called for the implementation of the special unit to dismantle paramilitary organisations in Colombia as well as demanding the presence of the government and the Implementation, Monitoring and Verification Commission of the peace agreement. The UN mission released a statement stating that they would send a delegation to the area to monitor what is happening.

Catatumbo is not the only area of the country where paramilitaries have been reported. 21 indigenous families were displaced in Bajo Calima, south-west Colombia, on 11 February. Over the last fortnight a group of armed individuals have threatened the humanitarian reserve of Santa Rosa de Guayacan, illegally detaining and torturing a member of the indigenous community, Jose Cley Chamapuro, on 4 February. The reserve has had protection measures from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission since 2011, after a massive forced displacement caused by paramilitary groups.

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