Domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2016

| 2010/07/06 00:00

After the Presidential Elections: The Challenges Ahead in Colombia

The strong victory in Colombia’s presidential elections of Juan Manuel Santos, a former Minister of Defense in the outgoing administration of President Alvaro Uribe, reflects the sentiment of many Colombians that Colombia has achieved great progress over the past eight years. Yet while significant, the success remains incomplete and great challenges remain.

After the Presidential Elections: The Challenges Ahead in Colombia

Colombia has experienced especially strong progress in combating illegal armed groups, such as the leftist guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Strengthened by U.S. aid under Plan Colombia and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, Colombia’s military forces greatly increased their fighting capacity and mobility. Police reform has experienced some important successes. FARC’s numbers have been halved to about nine thousand and its ability to operate substantially weakened, being pushed away from strategic corridors. Over the past eight years, the Government of Colombia also demobilized the rightist paramilitaries, the Autodefensas de Colombia (AUC), perpetrators of some of the worst massacres in Colombia. Kidnapping and murder rates have fallen substantially.

Yet critical weaknesses in security remain. In much of the territory nominally cleared of illegal armed actors, government presence remains sporadic and spotty. Often, illegal armed actors reign a short distance from major roads and government officials can enter many municipalities only with permission of the local armed actors. The government’s latest raid to liberate four prominent and long-held FARC hostages notwithstanding, the military effort against the FARC over the past year more or less has been stalled. The FARC still controls areas of difficult terrain, such as in Narino, and has increased its attacks along roads and in cities. Although the scale of its operations is small compared to the critical years of the late 1990s and the size of the territory the FARC controls is also far smaller, the operational tempo of attacks has increased and the resulting insecurity is sufficient to paralyze normal life.
 
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