Less than Half of FARC Soldiers are in Concentration Zones: Official

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Less than half of the FARC guerrillas have moved into the concentration zones where they are scrambling to meet a deadline for the demobilization process, raising questions about how many insurgents will ultimately leave the war.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) were due to move into the concentration zones by January 31. According to Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo, of the 5,500 insurgents expected to settle in the 26 zones, only an estimated 2,500 had arrived by January 28. 

On November 30, 2016, Colombia’s Congress ratified a new version of the peace treaty signed between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, after a first version was rejected through a public referendum on October 2.

On December 6, five days after the so-called “D-Day” that marked the beginning of the FARC’s disarmament and demobilization process, the guerrillas began moving towards 19 Transitory Hamlet Zones for Normalization and seven encampments, where the insurgents will concentrate and gradually surrender their weapons. The weapons will be handed over to the United Nations forces that are overseeing the process.

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The concentration of guerrilla soldiers in these zones is the first empirical way of measuring the demobilization process. But the number of FARC soldiers that have reached the concentration zones so far is smaller than many had hoped.

On the surface, this is troubling. Other illegal armed groups are reportedly trying to recruit FARC members. The Urabeños have allegedly offered FARC dissidents a monthly salary of COP 1,800,000 (approximately $600) to join their ranks.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Farc Peace Process

There have also been delays by the government in sorting out the concentration zones and setting up the infrastructure needed to host the insurgents, which might have caused some desertions from the guerrillas.

But it is also too early to panic. The small number of those in the concentration zones could be related to a series of extenuating circumstances. Bad weather and poor transport infrastructure also reportedly played a part in delaying the FARC’s demobilization.

As a result, Colombian authorities, including the High Commissioner for Peace, believe that many more insurgents will be reaching the concentration zones in the days to come, and the government has hinted that it might extend the deadline to reach these areas. 

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