Colombia’s vast Sumapaz is back in the spotlight after locals who reside in this remote region south of Bogotá claim that FARC is encroaching into the high-altitude wetland, including the 53 Front of the dissident guerrilla. Fears that a front known for mass kidnappings during the late 1990s when under command of alias “Romaña” may have reactivated has set-off the alarm bells.
Home to the National Park PNN Sumapaz, this region of immense biodiversity also encompasses the sacred lakes of the pre-Columbian Muisca. The rugged terrain, and almost permanent mist cover, allowed former FARC to establish corridors in which the guerrilla could move hostages taken in Bogotá to camps in the foothills of the Eastern Andes. Reports from communities that illegal armed group have returned after a decade of relative tranquility, prompted Bogotá Mayor Claudia López to summon a security council with the governors of Meta, Guillermo Zuluaga, and Cundinamarca, Nicolás García. The departments of Meta and Cundinamarca share large áreas of the Sumapaz.
The object of FARC dissidents is to establish a corridor from our department to reach Bogotá, as was the reality in the past,” affirmed Zuluaga. “This corridor moved hundreds of hostages, and a difficult situation that we do not want to experience again,” he said. According to testimonies from subsistence farmers who occupy lands outside the National Park, and within the southern-most limits of the capital, the 53 front has been renamed “Edinson Romaña” after the sadistic ex-FARC commander. The recent murder of community leader Carlos Julio Tautiva confirms that presence of illegal armed groups, including the Maoist ELN guerrilla within the city limits of Bogotá.
“We want to prevent criminal actions of which we are victims in Meta from spreading through a strategic corridor,” highlighted Zuluaga. A report by the Bogotá Ombudsman has documented 68 cases of threats against social leaders this year, almost half occurring in the localities of Ciudad Bolívar and Sumapaz. “Meta, Cundinamarca, and Bogotá will never fall in the hands of FARC, dissidents or other criminal groups,” affirmed Mayor López. López also announced that she will visit the Sumapaz over three days in the company of Zuluaga and García.
“From May 10 to 13 we are going to trek through inhospitable terrain, face many physical challenges and a test of endurance for the three of us. We are prepared and will act to guarantee the security of those who reside in the Sumapaz,” said López.
Among heightened security measures announced by the Mayoralty are new checkpoints manned by the Army’s V Brigade and patrols coordinate by the Ministry of Defense. The Mayor also called on the Attorney’s General Office to expedite investigations into the presence of illegal armed groups and threats against civilians. “The inhabitants of this region are not alone. Governors and mayors will work hand in hand so that they do not have to suffer or anything to regret,” stated López.