Armed Conflict

The Hunt for FARC Commander Alfonso Cano

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights
By · January 17, 2011 · Comment

The Colombian military has had numerous successes targeting high-ranking leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in recent years. Its two greatest successes were the killing of secretariat members Raúl Reyes in 2008 and Jorge Briceño, alias “Mono Jojoy,” last year. But the guerrilla leader that the military most wants to capture or kill is the FARC’s supreme commander Alfonso Cano. In an effort to achieve its objective, the Colombian army has deployed 5,000 troops with the sole mission of locating Cano. But the task of tracking down and targeting the FARC leader is proving to be far more challenging than the killing of Reyes and Mono Jojoy due to the high altitude and rugged mountain terrain prevalent in the department of Tolima in central Colombia, where the FARC was founded in 1964. Read more»

The Ongoing Pacification of Colombia’s Amazon Indians

Category: Armed Conflict, Race and Gender
By · January 10, 2011 · Comment

Inírida is a backwater Amazonian town like many others throughout the remote reaches of eastern Colombia. Located near the Venezuelan border at the juncture of the Inírida and Guaviare Rivers, it is only accessible by river or plane. The economy of Inírida and its surrounding environs in the department of Guainía has experienced several boom and bust cycles over the past century. Initially, rubber was the driving force behind the local economy; later it was gold, and then coca. None of these boom periods benefitted the indigenous peoples, who constitute 90 percent of Guainía’s population and who have endured numerous intrusions into their territories and culture over the past century. Read more»

The Way to Lay Down Arms is to Lay Down Arms

Category: Armed Conflict
By · October 23, 2010 · Comment

The current government of Juan Manuel Santos is playing the same game as the previous Colombian government: argue that demobilization is the same as peace and declare that war is the way to achieve peace. Oddly enough, Vice-President Angelino Garzón has said that the doors are open for dialogue only when the guerrillas decide that they are truly interested in peace. This, though, is not a contradiction in positions. What appears to be happening is a game of words that, in the end, does not imply any true government interest in peace negotiations. In fact, the statements by the government show that they actually  desire a continuation of the war. Read more»

Misunderstanding the FARC

Category: Armed Conflict
By · October 1, 2010 · 5 Comments

The recent death of FARC commander Jorge Briceño, also known as Mono Jojoy, has led many so-called experts to espouse their opinions on the implications of this development for the guerrilla group. This is not surprising given that these “experts” are often quoted by mainstream media outlets following any significant occurrence related to Colombia’s largest insurgency. What is surprising, however, is the degree of ignorance about the FARC exhibited by many of these experts, who often simply reiterate long-held misunderstandings or propaganda that have little basis in reality. The problem rests in the fact that most of these experts have spent little or no time in traditionally FARC-controlled regions or with the guerrillas themselves. As a result, they have very few actual insights to offer regarding the inner workings of the guerrilla group. Read more»

The Significance of the Killing of FARC Leader “Mono Jojoy”

Category: Armed Conflict
By · September 24, 2010 · Comment

On September 23, a massive operation conducted by the Colombian military targeted a large encampment of guerrillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in eastern Colombia. The military action killed FARC commander and secretariat member Jorge Briceño, also known by the nickname “Mono Jojoy.” It is only the second time in more than 45 years of armed conflict that the government has killed a member of the guerrilla group’s seven-person secretariat—the previous instance being the assassination of Raúl Reyes two-and-a-half years ago. But what will be the significance of the killing of Mono Jojoy? Read more»

Exorcising the Ghosts of Paramilitary Violence: Reclaiming Liberty in Libertad

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, Race and Gender
By · September 21, 2009 · Comment

Marco Tulio Pérez arrived in the remote Afro-Colombian community of Libertad in 2000. One of his first acts was to organize a beauty pageant for local girls between 15 and 18 years of age. But this pageant was to be much more than just another example of a community engaging in one of Colombia’s favorite pastimes because Pérez, also known as “el Oso” (the Bear), was the new leader of the right-wing paramilitaries in Libertad. The “prize” for the 15 highest-ranking girls in the pageant was a two-week stay on the small farm that the Bear and his troops had commandeered for their living quarters. The mass rape that occurred during that two weeks signified the beginning of a brutal four-year siege that the residents of Libertad would be forced to endure at the hands of the paramilitaries. It is a violent legacy that the community is now struggling to overcome. Read more»

Colombia’s Deteriorating Displacement Crisis

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights
By · August 17, 2009 · Comment

Tercer Milenio Park is located only a few blocks from Colombia’s presidential palace in the center of Bogotá and offers respite from the chaotic city to local residents. But for the past four months, it has also been a refuge from the country’s rural violence for more than one thousand displaced persons. In March, displaced people from every corner of Colombia occupied Bogotá’s Plaza Bolívar to protest the government’s failure to combat forced displacement and to address the needs of internal refugees. Police relocated the protesters to nearby Tercer Milenio Park, where they have lived ever since in makeshift homes constructed of wood and plastic sheets. More than 380,000 Colombians were forcibly displaced from their homes by violence in 2008 and, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 50 families arrive in Bogotá everyday seeking refuge. Bogotá mayor Samuel Moreno has publicly stated that the city is losing control of the situation and Health Secretary Hector Zambrano has called on the national government to establish refugee camps. Read more»