Colombia: guerilla factions to end internecine war

Colombia's two guerilla groups that remain in arms pledged this week to open a dialogue with each other to bring their internecine conflict to an end. Fighting broke out weeks ago between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and its smaller rival, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPL) in the northeastern Catatumbo region. William Villamizar, governor of Norte de Santander department, has declared a state of emergency over the violence, which he said has displaced some 1,000 families. The fighting is said to have begun as the two groups vied to take control of coca-growing lands vacated by the demobilized FARC guerillas. (Colombia Reports, April 24; BBC News, April 17; El Colombiano, April 9; El Tiempo, April 4)

The FARC's new political party, the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons (also with the acronym FARC) meanwhile issued a statement demanding the release of their newly-elected congressman Jesús Santrich following his arrest. Colombia's Fiscal General Nestor Humberto Martínez announced the arrest of Santrich April 9, and said he would be extradited to the US to face narco-trafficking charges. The FARC is protesting the arrest as a violation of the peace accords. (TeleSur, April 19) Former FARC chief peace negotiator Iván Márquez announced he is relocating from Bogotá to the Miravalle Territorial Space, one of the "transitional camps" established for ex-guerrillas, in his native Caquetá department, fearing that he may also be arrested. (Bogotá Post, April 23)

Photo: Colombia Reports