The Colombian government has written to a number of foreign embassies to impose restrictions on visits to transition and training zones where FARC members are based following the signing of the 2016 peace agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, FARC members relocated to 24 camps, known as ETCRs, where they are retraining for civilian life and developing productive and sustainable projects to build livelihoods away from conflict. Although the ETCRs have been affected by multiple issues around a lack of resources and funding that have raised concern over the reincorporation process, thousands of former guerrillas remain in the zones. However, with the ETCRs scheduled to stop functioning in August, there is uncertainty over the future of the residents.
Furthermore, chronic insecurity has seen 134 FARC former guerrillas and more than 30 close family members murdered since the agreement was signed has caused major alarm. Last week, the FARC called for emergency measures to address the murders of its members, while in early June the United Nations urged the Colombian government to ‘stop inciting violence’ against the FARC.
Among the embassies to have received letters dated 10 June 2019 and signed by the Vice-minister for Multilateral Affairs, Adriana Mejía Hernández, regarding new restrictions on visiting the ETCRs are those of Spain, Portugal and at least one other European country. The letter stipulates that foreign diplomats or other representatives which want to meet with FARC members in the ETCRs must attain government approval at least three weeks in advance and provide a clear motive for their visit. It also says that visiting delegations must allow government representatives to accompany the visits.
The letter also limits visits to between Wednesdays and Fridays during the second and fourth week of each month. The government has denied that it wants to restrict foreign access to FARC members and says that the stipulations are to allow for greater coordination between visiting delegations and the government and improved organisation.
Delegations of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor have visited a number of ETCRs, most recently on 30 May 2019 when British and Irish parliamentarians and trade union officials visited the Tierra Grata camp in César, northern Colombia, to hear first-hand about the experiences of FARC members during their transition to civil society. In its concluding statement, the delegation said that it had ‘travelled to the ETCR Tierra Grata where we saw the worrying lack of advancement on numerous elements of the socioeconomic reincorporation program agreed in the final peace deal’.