Colombia’s oil industry has lost more than $500 million in profits this year from attacks perpetrated by the FARC and ELN, which may be partly designed to put pressure on the government as peace negotiations continue.
According to the Colombian Oil Association (ACP), the oil industry has lost an estimated $521 million in profits this year due to attacks perpetrated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), reported EFE. While there have been fewer attacks so far this year compared to last year — 97 versus 223 — the ACP said the attacks in 2014 have been more damaging, reported AFP.
One particularly serious blow to the industry this year was a series of attacks on the Caño Limon pipeline — the country’s largest pipeline — which resulted in its closure for two months. Following this, the Colombian government said in July that it would be difficult for the country to reach its 2014 oil production target of 1,027,000 barrels a day.
In recent months, guerrilla attacks have targeted pipelines and oil tankers in the departments of Arauca and Norte de Santander, near the Venezuelan border, as well as in the department of Putumayo, near Ecuador.
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The petroleum industry is an important part of the Colombian economy, and accounts for 5.6 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the ACP. The industry has long been a favorite target of Colombia’s guerrilla groups, but the number of attacks on oil pipelines increased more than five-fold between 2010 and 2013.
The rise in that period may be partly attributable to the guerrilla groups’ diminished capacity to directly wage war against security forces, making infrastructure attacks more attractive because of the lower risks involved and the major economic impact they have.
The guerillas’ continued perpetration of highly damaging attacks could in part be an attempt to gain the upper hand in peace negotiations, by showing the government the impact they can have. The FARC and the Colombian government have been engaged in peace talks since 2012, and in June Colombian authorities announced that the government had begun to hold preliminary negotiations with the ELN.
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Targeting the petroleum industry also has economic benefits for the rebel groups. Sources within the FARC have previously told InSight Crime that multinational oil companies have elected to meet the group’s extortion demands in order to avoid further attacks and even greater financial losses.