Colombia: FARC disarmament process begins

The FARC guerillas on March 1 began the process of turning over their weapons at the 26 "transitional camps" established for the purpose around the country. The UN Mission in Colombia reported that some 320 guerilla fighters surrendered their weapons, initiating the disarmament process that is slated to continue through May. (El Tiempo, March 2) There is a palbable sense of de-escalation in many areas of Colombia long plagued by war and political violence. The mayor of Ituango, Antioquia department, Hernán Álvarez, reported that there is "an atmosphere of peace and tranquility" for the first time in many years in the municipality that has seen horrific human rights violations at the hands of paramilitaries and other armed actors over the past generation. (Prensa Rural, Feb. 28) Afro-Colombian residents of Cacarica, Chocó, a self-declared "peace community" that has for the past 20 years refused cooperation with all armed actors, held a ceremony in the village Feb. 24, celebrating the return of some 6,000 displaced community members to their homes, and honoring those slain over the past years of bloodshed. (Contagio Radio, Feb. 28)

However, violence continues in many areas of the country, Despite the recent opening of a peace process with Colombia's second guerilla movement, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a new blast on the Caño-Limon oil pipeline at El Tarra, Norte de Santander, appears to be the work of the group. State oil company Ecopetrol said there was damage to the line but no escape of oil in the March 1 attack. Over the past week, there had been three other such attacks on the line in the departments of Boyacá, Arauca and Norte de Santander. The Colombian Petroleum Association reports that there were 49 attacks on oil infrastructure in the country in 2016—but this represents a 45% drop compared with the previous year. (RCN Radio, Portafolio, El Tiempo, March 1)

In the reckoning over the scale of the violence in Colombia over the past generations, it is becoming increasingly clear that the official security forces were responsible for a great share of unlawful killings.  According to a report (PDF) by the National Center for Historical Memory, the FARC committed 3,899 homicides between 1980 and 2012, the year peace talks were formalized. In a January 2014 report, the Prosecutor General's Office said it had found that the the armed forces had executed 4,212 civilians since 1986 to claim them as guerrllas killed in combat—a practice known as "false positives." (Colombia Reports, Jan. 5)