Violence attributed to Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC, “diminished 80%” during the first week of January compared to the same period last year.
According to the conflict-monitoring NGO Nuevo Arco Iris, January 2012 was the most violent month in the past eight years.
“This month of January began better than last year, it remains to be seen if this trend continues,” the director of Nuevo Arco Iris told Colombia Reports.
Director Leon Valencia said the reduction of rebel violence could be attributed to the month-long unilateral ceasefire called by the FARC Secretariat which expires on January 20. The director said it would be “difficult” for the FARC to continue the ceasefire after that date.
“The FARC will, at one point or another, need to defend themselves, therefore I think it would be complicated, if not impossible, for them to continue a unilateral ceasefire after the 20th of January.”
Some rebel fronts, especially in the Cauca, Meta and Antioquia departments, have been accused of breaking the ceasefire on numerous occasions. Valencia said these reports were difficult to verify.
“It is hard to differentiate between offensive and defensive actions, for example, last week the Colombian air force bombed a FARC camp in Uraba, if the FARC should counterattack, or protect their camp, would that be a violation of the ceasefire?”
Valencia said the absence of certain FARC leaders from the negotiation table did not have to be a sign of internal turmoil.
“In the case of [Pablo] Catatumbo, for example, he is in command of a militarily and economically important Bloc, his absence at the negotiation table does not necessarily mean there is a rift in the FARC’s High Command.”
The director also pointed out that most of last year’s FARC-related violence was concentrated in traditional guerrilla hotbeds along the Ecuadorean and Venezuelan borders.