FARC members in peace process displaced from transition zone by violence

Ongoing threats and violence have forced FARC former guerrillas to abandon one of the official transitional zones, known as Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR). The ETCR in Ituango, department of Antioquia, has been beset by the close presence of paramilitary groups and state failures to adequately secure and develop the zone.

The ETCRs were created for FARC members to receive training, develop economic projects and live securely during their transition to civil society under the terms of the peace process. 218 FARC members have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, with a higher number of victims based at the ETCR in Ituango than at any of the 23 other zones spread around the country.

While a handful of FARC members will remain in Ituango to tend to productive projects established by the community, the majority have relocated to a new site in Mutatá in northern Colombia’s Urabá region. There they hope to find better security conditions and continue their reincorporation process.

Human rights lawyer Camilo Fagua said that other FARC communities had also previously been displaced due to threats of violence. He also said that security forces were turning a blind eye to armed groups operating in the vicinity of former guerrillas. ‘In Ituango, they’ve had to move away from this territory because of violence and the continuous presence of paramilitary groups around the ETCR … in front of the complict eyes of security forces,’ he said.

At least 12 FARC members resident at the ETCR in Ituango have been murdered, while last month the 15-year-old son of another former guerrilla based there was killed along with two other people. The FARC and the United Nations Verification Mission have repeatedly called on the government to enact urgent measures to tackle the endemic violence against former guerrillas in the peace process.

The government of Iván Duque, however, has been slow to react. While the UN Mission has urged authorities to regularly convene the National Commission on Security Guarantees, created in the peace agreement to secure volatile regions and tackle paramilitary groups, the Commission met only twice in 2019 and so far has met only once this year. The UN recently again said that ensuring security for social activists and FARC former guerrillas was the main priority facing the peace process.

In Feburary this year, the fourth international delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor visited a community established by FARC former guerrillas in Mutatá, close to where those displaced from Ituango also plan to relocate. You can watch a short film of the visit here.