Colombia: Criminal Gangs Take Control of FARC Coca Production Regions
A report published by the 9fficial “Grupo de Monitoreo” (monitoring group) on the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas warns of the intention of the Colombian Gaitanista Self-Defense Groups (ACG), an alliance between two criminal gangs known as “El Clan del Golfo” And “Clan Usuga,” to take control of the the Urabá area in Antioquia, a highly important coca-growing region, in order to expand cultivation, encourage desertion in the ranks of other armed groups, and become the overlords of the territories abandoned by the FARC, who will now be heading to so-called “pre-grouping zones” to await transitional justice.
Peasants of the sector say that the criminal gang is responsible for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of José Yeimer Cartagena on January 11, 2017, who was the vice president of the Campesino Association of Alto Sinú and who had led campaigns against the eradication of coca crops in the area.
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The paramilitary problem has become one of the FARC‘s biggest concerns, who have assured that paramilitarism is on the rise in Colombia, despite the denial of the government. “Ruben”, head of the FARC’s 58th Front, says he is worried about the situation. He says that “if this is the situation when we still have the FARC, what will happen when we move forward in disarmament and reintegration,” according to a report by news website Las 2 Orillas.
According to Las 2 Orillas, another witness, who declined to disclose his identity, reported that 20 armed men arrived on January 19 to the district of Saiza to take control of that border area between the departments of Cordoba and Antioquia, in the north-west of the country. Commanders with the names “Pedro “, “Pollo” and “Ulises” also allegedly arrived in the district of Juan José in Alto de San Jorge in the department of Cordoba where they distributed coca seeds to the peasants.
In addition, FARC guerrillas say that these criminal gangs are reaching out to make contact with the guerrillas in the pre-grouping areas, encouraging them to desert the FARC and join the ranks of the paramilitaries. Part of their recruiting pitch is to cast doubt over the preparedness of the Colombian government to reintegrate the rebels into civilian society.
According to the report, there are public forces in the area. The army, police, and Security Council in Cordoba have declared a red alert with regard to the need to deal with the situation, however, the mobilization of these illegal armed groups continues.
One of the FARC leaders in a pre-grouping zone in the sector, known by the alias “El Flaco,” assures that if the authorities do not take control, the peace process will be put at risk in the area. The leader also expressed concerns about close ties between government security forces and paramilitaries.
While the inhabitants of the sector seek to eradicate the scourge of coca cultivation, paramilitaries threaten them and seek to regain control of the area to continue the lucrative and bloody drug trade, a situation that is unfortunately occurring throughout Colombian territory.
Source: Las 2 Orillas