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Colombia’s environment in the post-conflict transition: New set-backs by the global pandemic

The Cocora Valley, Colombia. Photo: Fernanda Fierro / Unsplash

Colombia’s environment in the post-conflict transition: New set-backs by the global pandemic

The 2016 peace agreement between Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla did not bring the glimpse of hope it aspired to. Focali members Torsten Krause and Fariborz Zelli together with researchers Sandra Valencia, Ana Maria Vargas Falla and Britta Sjöstedt outline how the void after FARC has been filled by a diverse range of armed groups creating a dangerous cocktail of violence and intimidation. They also highlight the implications of the current pandemic on the peace process, and sheds light on a new victim - The environment.

A glimpse of hope quickly vanishing

In 2016, Colombia officially emerged from one of the world’s longest internal armed conflicts when the government, under former President Juan Manual Santos, signed a peace agreement with the country’s largest and most influential guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, also known as FARC.

Four years have passed since, and while some of Colombia’s departments have been able to enjoy a relatively tranquil time with the retraction of the FARC and the cessation of hostilities and violence, other departments and rural areas, have moved even further away from peace. For decades the FARC had exercised a de-facto state authority with rules and regulation in the territories previously under its control. However, since October 2016, when the FARC retracted from these territories as part of the demobilization process, the void has often been filled by a diverse range of new armed groups including criminal gangs. These gangs, referred to by local authorities as BACRIM, have been trying to seize control of lucrative informal markets including the coca and gold trades. In addition, the power vacuum was filled by other leftist guerilla groups that have been fighting the Colombian state for decades. These include, foremost, the National Liberation Army (ELN), but also former FARC guerilla fighters who rejected or abandoned the re-integration process and formed FARC dissident groups.

Thus far, the outcome of these developments is a complex mixture of violent armed groups, all of which profit financially from the general chaos of the power vacuum. While some of them, such as the ELN, claim to pursue larger political objectives, what all of these groups have in common is their main modus operandi, that implies a dangerous cocktail of illegal practices, violence and intimidation of local populations, including peasants, social leaders, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as large multinational corporations.

Continue reading the full story at the Lund University website.

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