Country Report on Terrorism 2011 - Chapter 2 - Colombia


Overview: Colombia has struggled for nearly half a century with a number of extremely violent and complex terrorist organizations working to overthrow or destabilize the national government. Overall, the number of attacks and casualties rose, as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reverted to hit and run attacks rather than large unit encounters, while the number of known and suspected terrorists killed, captured, or surrendered fell. The Colombian Ministry of Defense and National Police (CNP) succeeded in striking several major blows against terrorist forces, however, most notably the November 4 killing of FARC Supreme Commander Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias “Alfonso Cano.”

2011 Terrorist Incidents: Colombia experienced a large number of terrorist attacks by the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Still, the manpower and mobility of both groups were significantly reduced in the last decade, forcing them to adopt more traditional guerilla tactics. Nevertheless, the FARC and ELN continued to pose a serious threat to Columbia's security. The frequency of incidents increased in September, as illegal armed groups attempted to disrupt public order during the run-up to the October 30 elections. The increased frequency of attacks continued through November, partly in reprisal for the killing of Alfonso Cano earlier that month. There were no significant terrorist incidents specifically targeting U.S. citizens or U.S. government facilities.

Notable terrorist incidents:

  • On February 3, 30 CNP personnel were wounded in an ambush on an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in Puerto Rondon, a small town on the Venezuelan border. The unit and other officers had been summoned to investigate a report of a possible improvised explosive device in the middle of the road.
  • On February 11 in San Miguel, Putumayo, a home-made mortar device fired by suspected FARC terrorists landed near a CNP post, killing five civilians, including a child, and wounding two other children.
  • On June 25, suspected ELN rebels attacked a CNP outpost in Colon Genova, Narino, with explosives and small-arms fire, killing eight civilians and wounding four.
  • On September 18, home-made mortars launched towards the Colombian Army base in La Macarena, Meta Department, injured several civilians.
  • On the day of the October 30 elections, suspected ELN terrorists in Arauca Department opened fire on the armored convoy of Albeiro Vanegas, Vice President of the House of Representatives. Vanegas was unharmed, but his driver was killed.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Overall law enforcement cooperation between Colombia and the United States was outstanding. Colombia extradited more people to the United States than any other country, with 119 alleged criminals in 2011. Unlike previous years, none of the 119 cases were blocked by the Colombian high courts. Evidence sharing and joint law enforcement operations also occurred in a fluid and efficient manner.

Colombian authorities were exceptionally helpful in assisting U.S. authorities on approximately 20 kidnapping and homicide cases involving U.S. citizens, and the CNP also provided judicial and investigative assistance in a handful of terrorism cases involving non-Colombian international terrorist organizations.

Colombia continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. ATA provided Colombia with anti-kidnapping, computer forensics, dignitary protection, and leadership training to enable Colombia to expand its role as a regional provider of counterterrorism-related training to other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Colombia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of South America Against Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Colombia continued to cooperate with the United States to block terrorists' assets and Colombian authorities and police carried out several operations during the year to arrest and charge financial support networks of the FARC. Aerial and manual eradication of illicit drugs in Colombia, key to targeting terrorist group finances, destroyed approximately 117,000 hectares of illegal coca crops and 288 hectares of poppy plants as of December 19, thus depriving terrorist groups of significant revenue streams. All Colombian financial institutions immediately closed drug trafficking and terrorism-related accounts on Colombian government orders or in response to sanctions designations by the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Colombia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and was actively involved in the United Nations (UN), Organization of American States (OAS), and the Union of South American Nations. The Colombian government frequently integrated the recommendations of the UN and OAS into its security decisions. Colombia also chaired the Iran Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. The CNP recently assumed responsibility for coordinating with INTERPOL and maintained an INTERPOL office of approximately 70 analysts, agents, and support staff.

Colombia continued to provide training to its regional partners. In the past three years, the CNP has provided training to over 11,000 police officers from 21 Latin American and African countries, as well as Afghanistan. Colombia has provided basic and advanced helicopter pilot training to Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran counterparts, and provided advanced counterterrorism training to members of Special Forces units from around the world.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Colombia employed a robust and modern multi-agency approach to countering radicalization and extremism aimed at encouraging members and entire units of the FARC and ELN to demobilize and reintegrate with society. The Colombian armed forces and police used a number of fixed and mobile radio transmitters to broadcast strategic messaging to potential deserters. Such messaging can also be seen in print, television, and a number of creative alternative media. Colombian rebels and paramilitaries who choose to demobilize are entered into a formalized process of debriefing, counseling, relocation, and job placement assistance. Recidivism rates were moderate to low.