FARC splinter group is growing, now deadly

Former FARC members and fighters disassociated from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) peace agreement and who launched new paramilitary offshoots have been sporadically launching small-scale attacks against civilians in recent months.

Authorities in Colombia’s southwestern state of Cauca have launched anti-kidnapping operations against fighters from the Advanced Renovable Armed Force (FERA), an ex-FARC splinter group.

The majority of FARAD, which currently has only between 200 to 500 members, is not armed and focused on fighting under the radar in rural areas, according to the Colombian government. But they’ve recently found themselves in confrontations with authorities, and their group is believed to be seeking to create ties with other splinter factions, including the Rastrojos and a recently formed splinter faction called a National Liberation Army (ELN).

However, FERA’s main priority is to establish their presence and control coca production and trafficking routes along the country’s southwest coast, which is infamous for drug trafficking, land conflicts and a concentration of FARC guerrilla bases.

FARAD is currently engaged in an intense struggle with the Rastrojos, a fractured gang whose battle with the FARC left thousands dead and much of the Cauca region in a dangerous mix of government, FARC and criminal forces. Hundreds of killings have taken place recently, allegedly linked to fighting between FARC fighters and the Rastrojos.

The Rastrojos, originally founded as a criminal organization to defend coca growers, have lost much of their political power since the peace agreement was reached, losing a majority of their leaders and troops to the guerrillas.

The Rastrojos, who have in the past reported ties to dissident FARC members, have failed to consistently maintain their control of many key areas of Cauca. They started a criminal rival to FARAD called the Northern Bloc, a group of ex-FARC, which has increased their criminal activity in the region since they split from the Rastrojos in 2015.

And the ELN, which has been increasingly active in Cauca since joining the peace agreement last year, has recently made overtures toward FERA and the Northern Bloc, too.

ELN guerrillas have reportedly tried to obtain the key drug production and trafficking routes in the areas controlled by FARC rebels. For their part, authorities have struggled to curtail guerrilla activities in the rural areas of Cauca.

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