Ahead of Peace Talks, Suspected FARC Rebels Blow Up Coal Railroad

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Suspected FARC members have bombed a key stretch of railroad used to transport coal in the north of Colombia, continuing their recent spate of attacks on the country’s infrastructure.

The bombing, carried out on August 30, destroyed 10 meters of track on the railroad leading from the Cerrejon Coal Company mine in La Guajira, northeast Colombia. Cerrejon Coal, a consortium of three mining companies, operates Colombia’s largest open-pit coal mine. A company spokesman told the Associated Press that two train cars were also damaged, but that the line was expected to be back in service within a day. None of the train’s crew were wounded.

A local police commander blamed the 59th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The 59th was also blamed for killing 12 Colombian soldiers in the Guajira province in May, before fleeing across the border into Venezuela.

The bombing follows two similar attacks against Cerrejon in the past two months, both of which were blamed on FARC rebels.

InSight Crime Analysis

This spate of attacks is part of a wider offensive against Colombia’s infrastructure by the guerrilla group and its counterpart, the National Liberation Army (ELN). In one recent attack, alleged FARC guerrillas took out a electricity station in Arauca province, leaving 100,000 people without power. Overall, attacks on infrastructure by the two groups rose to 80 in the first six months of this year, compared to 62 during the same period of 2011.

While many of these attacks on large energy companies are connected to extortion, they are also likely an attempt by the FARC to show military might. This is particularly pertinent following the announcement this week that the government will enter peace negotiations with the rebels. The bombings illustrate the FARC can still create problems for authorities by sabotaging infrastructure. The rebels may believe this strengthens their negotiating position.

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