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Cablegate: Farc-Eln Abuses Create Humanitarian Need in Arauca

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1059/01 0782007
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 182007Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1994
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0125
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 9333
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6026
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1412
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6680
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE PRIORITY 4789
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4351
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001059

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM CO
SUBJECT: FARC-ELN ABUSES CREATE HUMANITARIAN NEED IN ARAUCA

REF: A. 07 BOGOTA 416

B. 07 BOGOTA 4315
C. 07 BOGOTA 8047

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. In the first weeks of 2008, fighting between the FARC and
ELN led to the displacement of over 4000 people in Arauca
department. The FARC is trying to wrest oil-rich areas from
the ELN, using selective assassinations and displacement.
Meanwhile, the ELN pressured fleeing residents to stay.
International organizations with a presence in Arauca are
helping the GOC and local officials to aid Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) in seven communities. Still, these
communities' aid needs have exceeded humanitarian groups'
capacity to deliver. Due to the humanitarian impact of the
FARC-ELN violence, the GOC and relief organizations have
increased their presence in Arauca. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
FARC AND ELN ACTIONS IN ARAUCA LEADS TO MASS DISPLACEMENTS
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. Since January 6, 2008, over 1000 families living in
several rural villages in the eastern part of Arauca
department have fled their homes due to fighting between the
FARC and ELN. The Arauca government reports that 4375
persons fleeing the fighting arrived in seven different
communities; more than 50% of the IDPs were children. As of
March 1, IDPs were located as follows:

- 1875 IDPs in Tame in south central Arauca, including over
50 indigenous families in Betoyes to Tame's east;
- 1270 IDPs in Saravena near the Venezuelan border;
- 595 IDPs in Fortul to the north of Tame; and
- 153 IDPs in the city of Arauca.

Additional IDPs have arrived in Arauquita on the Venezuelan
border.

3. The latest displacements represent an intensification of
a trend from the previous two years in Arauca, where 8000
persons were displaced in both 2006 and 2007. The UN Office
of the Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA) reports that the
increased displacement stems from the FARC's attempt to seize
control of communities in central Arauca previously dominated
by the ELN. With these communities expecting to receive
increased oil royalties in the near future, the FARC moved
in--killing 20 community leaders and forcing local residents
to flee. IDPs from the village of Arabia told the press in
Tame that on January 8 the FARC murdered a local leader and
ordered residents to leave immediately. The International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that in Pueblo
Seco, the FARC expelled all 500 residents. Mines laid by the
two terrorist groups--as well as forced recruiting--also
produce displacement.

4. The FARC-ELN conflict in Arauca is two years old and
centers on control of coca cultivation, drug routes, and
extortion rackets targeting the local petroleum and cattle
industries. The majority of the department's 240,000
residents are farmers, many of whom have been affected by the
violence (the department has 40,000 registered IDPs). UN
agencies estimate the FARC has 1000 members in Arauca, while
the ELN has between 600-1000. In response to the FARC-ELN
conflict, the GOC has increased its military presence in the
department--setting up four more military bases in the region.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
LACK OF THE HUMANITARIAN PRESENCE RESULTS IN SLOW INITIAL
RESPONSE
--------------------------------------------- ------------

5. Prior to 2008, few humanitarian groups maintained a
presence in Arauca. Besides the ICRC, which has had an
office in Saravena for many years, several UN agencies
conducted only periodic visits to the department. Only a few
NGOs had projects in the department--most notably Medicins
Sans Frontier (MSF)--which works with the small indigenous
communities near Tame. The Colombian Red Cross, with the
support of the French Red Cross, conducted occasional health
interventions in the department. While the larger towns on
the Venezuelan border had developed contingency plans and set
up IDP response committees, the poorer towns in central
Arauca had fewer humanitarian resources. Due to its limited
humanitarian capacity and isolation, Tame in particular
struggled to cope with the new arrivals. To help, the
Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the GOC's Accion
Social gave emergency training in Tame and other communities.

6. Initial relief distributions (food and emergency kits) by
ICRC and Accion Social occurred in January and February. In
addition, Accion Social collaborated with local IDP response
committees and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)
to ensure the continued delivery of other forms of aid. PAHO
set up a temporary presence in the area to work with a
special unit of Arauca's Health Agency to coordinate health
services in the communities. In Betoyes, MSF is covering
indigenous health needs. Shelter was the greatest initial
need, as many IDPs found shelter with friends and families or
in community facilities unprepared to handle additional
people. To improve living conditions, local authorities,
along with PAHO and UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR), implemented water/sanitation improvements in several
shelters.

7. The situation is gradually improving. UNHCR set up a new
field office in the municipality of Arauca in February. and
arranged workshops to educate the Public Forces (Military and
Police) on their legal obligations to aid and protect IDPs.
The World Food Program (WFP) which has made periodic
emergency food aid missions to the department, is
considering the establishment of a permanent presence. The
most pressing need seems to be in the health sector as
Arauca's few hospitals and clinics are ill equipped to cope
with the large number of IDPs. The Ministry of Social
Protection has pledged to help.

-----------------
CURRENT SITUATION
-----------------

8. As tensions between FARC, ELN, new criminal gangs and the
Colombian military continue in the department, few IDPs have
returned to their homes. Shortly after opening its new office
in the city of Arauca, UNHCR conducted field missions to the
conflict areas. Along a five kilometer stretch of a road
near Tame, UNHCR saw separate FARC, ELN and Colombian Army
camps. Most villages visited were abandoned. In Puerto
Seco, UNHCR found a village that looked like its residents
had only recently left--clothes still hanging on lines, doors
open, and chickens running around unattended. In the town,
UNHCR encountered three elderly residents who had refused to
leave in order to protect their small grocery store, now full
of spider webs due to the lack of customer traffic.
Brownfield

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