In the first six months of 2017, 729 attacks against the civilian population were registered, which is a 12% increase compared to the same time in 2016. 30 of the 32 departments were affected by violence.?
However, 30% of the attacks were concentrated in 11 municipalities in Nariño, Norte de Santander, Arauca, Antioquia, Cauca, and Chocó departments. ?
Unidentified actors are responsible for about half of the attacks, followed by post-demobilisation armed groups and the ELN.?
The EPL conducted 23 attacks - up from three at the same time period in 2016. This is likely due to the power vacuum left by the FARC leading to power struggles between groups.?
In 2016, violent incidents decreased by 34% compared to 2015. This is largely due to the FARC not taking part in the armed conflict. However, the ELN, EPL and post demobilisation armed groups' contribution to the violence increased significantly. Most of the violence occurred in Norte de Santander, Arauca, Antioquia, Cauca, Chocó, and Nariño, where these groups are still active.?
As of June, the ELN continues to conduct attacks against paramilitary groups and against specific infrastructure, as well as conduct kidnappings, notably in Arauca, Cesar, Antioquia, and Norte de Santander, despite the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government.??Security operations by the Colombian army were still being conducted in retaliation.? On 4 September 2017, the government and the ELN agreed on a bilateral ceasefire, to be in place for an initial 102 days starting on 1 October. ?
At the end of August, there were reports that the EPL is stepping up attacks against paramilitary groups and the Venezuelan military operating in the border region of Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, in a move to take over territory previously controlled by FARC. There are also reports that the EPL is establishing a presence in Venezuela for the first time. This alleged territorial expansion is likely to lead to heavy clashes with paramilitary groups in the area, as these are key smuggling routes. ?
Post-demobilisation armed groups
In September, a few days after one of the main figures of Los Urabeños was killed in a security operation, the group's leader "Otoniel" seemingly offered the surrender of Los Urabeños in a video circulated online. President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed that the government had received an offer of Los Urabeños' surrender, and stated that there would be no political negotiations with the group. ? Considering the predominant role of Los Urabeños in Colombia's illegal economies and the decentralised structure of the organisation, it is unlikely that all members would surrender even if the group's leadership turned itself in. ?
UN officials removing FARC weapon caches were attacked by suspected EPL members in Hacarí, Norte de Santander, in the beginning of September. ? Suspected FARC dissidents attacked a UN mission supervising the DDR process on 6 August in Caloto, Cauca department.?Six people were injured when alleged FARC dissidents ambushed a military vehicle in San Jose de Guaviare in Caqueta department on 10 July. This is the first incident claimed by the FARC since the signature of the ceasefire between the FARC and the Colombian government in 2016.?The region of Guaviare is known to host one of the biggest FARC dissident groups, with an estimated 300 fighters. There are reports that different dissident FARC groups are starting to unite or absorb smaller groups in Caquetá and Tumaco.? FARC dissidents are found mostly in Meta, Caquetá and Guaviare departments and engage in significant drug trafficking activity and control of trade routes. ?
Former FARC fighters in the process of demobilising are subject to violence. Most recently, a former FARC commander was assassinated by armed men nearby a FARC demobilisation camp in Ituango, Antioquia on 14 August. This came a few days before the beginning of the reintegration phase of the DDR process, which locals fear. Seven demobilised FARC members and ten family members of the FARC have been assassinated since the peace process started on 1 December 2016 according to the FARC.?
The Colombian government launched security operations to retake control of FARC-demobilised areas on 1 January 2017.? Other armed groups are moving in as FARC withdraws.?The Urabeños have almost doubled their territory since negotiations began between FARC and the government.? The security vacuum results in power struggles between armed groups seeking to take control over the illegal economy in these areas.? In the first five months of 2016, an increase in clashes was observed between the Urabeños, state forces, and the ELN in northern and western departments, particularly in Chocó.?Violence has become particularly frequent since the beginning of the FARC DDR process.
FARC demobilisation has caused a split within the group, with some members refusing to demobilise and defecting or deserting.?There are reports that the Urabeños are offering 1.8 million Colombian pesos to FARC dissidents in Antioquia, Bolívar, and Córdoba, in a move to take control of the FARC's drug trafficking and illegal mining operations.? While some FARC members never took part in the peace process, others deserted during the ongoing DDR process. In September, a former commander of the FARC's 27th Front reportedly abandoned the DDR process. ?There are an estimated 400 FARC dissidents, who currently remain in decentralised structures, with presence in the southwestern departments of Cauca and Nariño, as well as in the departments of the Eastern Plains. ?
Extortion rates increased by 30% in 70 municipalities in 2016, which were formerly under the influence of the FARC. This can be explained by the growing presence of organised crime and armed groups filling in the power vacuum.?
The government is currently carrying out a coca eradication campaign and aims to eradicate 100,000 hecatres in 2017, although it only managed to uproot 17,593 hectares in 2016. The plan includes both voluntary substitution of coca crops and forced eradications by state forces.?This is met with resistance by some farmers who live off coca production, notably near Tumaco in Nariño department and in Cauca department.?Clashes between indigenous groups and security forces are reported in Cauca at the beginning of May.??There are allegations that these protests are encouraged by armed groups and paramilitary groups, who control drug trafficking in these regions.?