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COLOMBIA: Oil Production Up, but FARC Still Targeting Infrastructure

Bottom Line: Colombia’s oil production is up to an average of 1.01 billion barrels per day as of January 2013—the first time it’s surpassed the targeted 1 billion barrel mark. For 2012, crude output was at about 940,000. This represents a sizeable gain that is in part due to the gradual effects of more market-friendly terms for producers and in part due to gains in weakening rebel groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). While FARC has been weakened, it still poses an major problem and guerilla-style retaliation has the group targeting oil infrastructure and Colombian security installations specifically. Fissures in the FARC leadership indicate that more violence and destruction is on the way as various figures attempt to demonstrate their capabilities for the future.

Analysis: Since the beginning of February, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have carried out 30 attacks against Colombian security forces, killing 10 and wounding 35 others, and targeted an Ecopetrol construction site and two pipelines.

The unilateral two-month FARC ceasefire that began in November 2012 and ended in January exposed the group’s leadership fissures. All of FARC was not on board—the rebel group perpetrated 57 attacks during the ceasefire. By the end of January, FARC rebels had kidnapped two policemen and one soldier. Both were released by 16 February, but the message was clear: FARC may have suffered some major losses, but it’s hitting back with a vengeance.

FARC

Those kidnappings were just a fraction of FARC’s recent violence against security forces and civilians. Since the beginning of February, FARC carried out 30 reported attacks against Colombian security forces, killing 10 and injuring 35. In the Choco department, FARC implemented an “armed strike” from 1 to 9 February to highlight government exploitation and corruption in the region, disrupting travel and economic activity.

On 10 February, the 33rd Front of FARC attacked an Ecopetrol construction site in Teorama, near the Venezuelan border. That same day it also attacked the Caño Limon Coveñas pipeline in Carmen, Norte de Santander. On 11 February, the 49th Front Guerillas blew up a section of the Trans-Andes oil pipeline (OTA) near Los Ángeles, in Putumayo department. On 12 February, authorities were ambushed by FARC while responding to a fire in Miraflores. On 13 February, FARC killed seven more Colombian soldiers and injured five during a battle in Caqueta department.

The government believes peace is now possible because FARC’s weakened position allows the state a better negotiating position. But a debilitated organization can lash out in desperation, and the signs of a divided leadership are becoming more evident. On 20 February in Guaviare, a 7th Front FARC leader known as Efren Caracho turned himself in to authorities and revealed discontent in the ranks and between the various branches. Even if the parties in Havana reach a final peace agreement, FARC may not be able to control all its various factions throughout Colombia. The ceasefire was a test-run for a final agreement, to demonstrate a unified FARC leadership, but by our assessment it failed that litmus test.




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