Written by Daniel Edgar exclusively for SouthFront
As had been feared by many people, as the FARC-EP have disarmed and demobilized (in scrupulous compliance with the terms and requirements of the Peace Accord), the areas they previously controlled are now being taken over by other illegal armed groups seeking to secure control over strategic territories and lucrative resources. While in some cases the last remaining insurgent group (the ELN) has moved into these areas, in the overwhelming majority of cases ‘neo-paramilitary groups’ and other brutal criminal organizations with no pretence at ideological or political objectives have rapidly assumed control. There are few if any exceptions. The Colombian Armed Forces (and their US and Israeli ‘advisers’ and ‘technical and operational’ personnel that arrive in a variety of guises – military, intelligence, corporate, among others) have not had the slightest success in preventing this from happening, despite their massive firepower (while the FARC-EP have disarmed completely, the massive military budgets continue to increase).
The proven inability of the State to establish an effective presence in these areas raises the question of the possible involvement of former FARC-EP members in post-demobilization security arrangements. The best way (perhaps the only way) to provide a high degree of safety and security in many remote and rural areas may well be extending existing joint projects for peace (such as the cooperation between the FARC-EP and the Armed Forces in the conduct of de-mining operations) to the task of reconnaissance and patrols. The extensive skills and experience gained by the FARC-EP could make an invaluable contribution to the ability of the State to secure territorial control in remote regions and detect possible threats or disruptions to the peace (whether internal or external) and the performance of specific security-related tasks in cooperation with State security forces. This is particularly so in the most remote and perilous border, jungle and mountain areas where the FARC have traditionally had a strong presence and the State has never managed to secure effective territorial control.
Of course, this would need to be developed in accordance with local and regional conditions on a case by case basis and coordinated with the establishment and strengthening of other public institutions, infrastructure and services. The process of recruitment would be strictly limited to former guerrilla members specifically exonerated from involvement in war crimes by the transitional justice system.
The most important aspect of any future security strategy is that they must be developed in a manner that enables local and regional communities to identify the types of security measures and arrangements that they consider most appropriate, and that the local communities have the right to determine how those security measures will be implemented. This includes participation in and control over the elaboration and execution of local and regional security strategies, and the mix of security forces responsible for the maintenance of law and order and the detection and neutralization of any possible threats in respective communities and territories. In terms of security as such, the combination of forces could conceivably include elements of the Armed Forces and Police and demobilized FARC-EP members, as well as members chosen by local communities and regional organizations (such as Indigenous guardias and community police and militias).
The only plausible alternative, indeed the most likely situation to develop in the long term, is extensive and ineffective deployments of large numbers of reluctant and poorly trained military draftees pressed into service, supported by extremely expensive foreign military and intelligence companies. In effect, this would essentially hand territorial control over to distant military and corporate interests and agendas operating without accountability to anyone except their anonymous regional and foreign (principally US, UK and Israeli) paymasters. In the meantime, the armed illegal groups will almost certainly consolidate their control over such areas, resources and populations for the foreseeable future.