The recent reports about Colombian guerrillas allegedly holding an illegal meeting in the southwestern region, while authorities dismantled a corruption ring in the area, has only added to concerns that the region will continue to be plagued by issues even after the conflict ends.
Tumaco municipality’s acting mayor Cesar Mauricio Ocampo said the FARC guerillas had had a political meeting on 22nd March in support of Julio Cesar Rivera, who is running for office in the next municipal election. Tumaco is one of the municipalities in the country’s department of Nariño.
The FARC members confirmed that Rivera had made a personal plea for the insurgents’ support in the election while promising that some of the requests they had made would be fulfilled.
According to Ocampo, the meeting violates the terms set out in the peace agreement that was signed between the government and the rebels in November last year. The FARC are currently settling in several concentration zones. They are expected to surrender weapons while being forbidden by the accord from participating in political activities before they are disarmed.
Meanwhile, Nariño authorities made a number of arrests on 23rd March in an operation that targeted an alleged corruption ring that brought together members of the Attorney General’s Technical Investigations Unit and a drug trafficking organisation that had links to FARC.
The 15 staff members arrested in the operation have been accused of working in concert with a drug organisation linked to Jose Feliciano Solis, a well-known trafficker with the FARC unit that operates in Nariño.
According to authorities, the unit was helping accused FARC drug traffickers during court proceedings and returning and selling seized cocaine. They are also accused of handing vital intelligence to the traffickers.
It is clear that challenges still lie ahead for authorities in Colombia, even as FARC insurgents surrender their former strongholds. According to UN figures, Tumaco is the leading municipality in terms of coca hectares. As of 2015, there were 16,960 registered hectares, 18 percent more than in 2014. This makes it Colombia’s largest coca-producing area.