The FARC rebel group have declared an “armed strike” in Choco on Colombia’s Pacific, warning the population not to travel on the main rivers and roads between March 1 and 8, effectively cutting road links between the province and the rest of the country.
Rebels from the 57th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) distributed flyers warning store owners to close their doors, and telling citizens not to travel on the roads between Choco and the cities of Medellin and Pereira, or on the Atrato and San Juan Rivers.
Several bus companies have suspended their services on these routes, which are the only roads linking Choco to the rest of the country.
One airline has cancelled flights to Acandi, on the Caribbean coast of the Choco department, following a grenade attack on its offices there, which the authorities have attributed to the FARC.
However, the authorities are insisting that the area is secure, with Colonel Jorge Romero of the army’s 15th Brigade saying that the population can travel without risk.
InSight Crime Analysis
This offensive by the FARC falls on the four-year anniversary of the death of commander Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes,” who was killed in an armed forces raid on his camp in Ecuador on March 1, 2008.
In May last year the rebels declared another armed strike on the Atrato River, blockading some 200 civilians who had been traveling down the waterway.
Choco is an extremely important region for the group, as a key shipping point for international drug trafficking. The guerrillas have likely launched the strike in order to show their muscle in the region, and undermine the armed forces deployed there.