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March 28 - April 3, 2024 | Issue 13 - SOUTHCOM

Ignacio Minuesa, Marta Vanti, Enrico Dal Cin, Joseph Pollard, Lydia Baccino

Christina Valdez, Editor; Alya Fathia Fitri, Senior Editor

Soldiers Operating in the Mist[1]

Date: March 28, 2024

Location: Argelia, Cauca Department, Colombia

Parties involved: President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro; Colombia; National Army of Colombia (EJC); National Police of Colombia (PONAL); FARC dissident group, Second Marquetalia; FARC Central General Staff; Cauca civilians

The eventClashes between the National Army and the Second Marquetalia group in Cauca resulted in the death of five dissidents and the injury of a minor whom the armed group forcibly recruited. The EJC rescued the minor in a medical helicopter. This event occurred one week after Gustavo Petro suspended the ceasefire with the Central General Staff of the FARC dissidents.[2] In this region, it is common for armed groups to forcibly recruit minors, threaten, extortion, and kidnap civilians.

Analysis & Implications:

  • The escalating violence between the EJC and the Second Marquetalia likely poses a threat to regional stability, likely exacerbating the humanitarian conflict, increasing displacement, and hindering access to essential services for Cauca civilians. The strain on resources and infrastructure will likely be crucial because it impacts the ability of organizations like the PONAL and international aid agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance and support to affected populations effectively. This escalation will likely threaten ongoing peace processes led by figures like President Petro, jeopardizing reconciliation efforts and prolonging regional conflict.

  • The EJC injuring a minor during the event is very likely to galvanize the Second Marquetalia, likely making future skirmishes more violent in retaliation. There is a roughly even chance that this situation will prompt the Second Marquetalia to plan counterattacks against EJC personnel. Further clashes between the Second Marquetalia and the EJC will likely empower extreme elements within the former by likely fuelling a narrative of unjust government oppression, almost certainly risking prospects of peace negotiations.

  • The disruption of the Second Marquetalia column is unlikely to lead to immediate stability in Cauca or advance the wider peace process. Increased pressure by the Petro government to curb the Second Marquetalia in Cauca, will likely lead to further illicit actions, such as kidnapping and extortion to supplement the group's surviving operational capability. The military success of this operation is unlikely to yield the strategic impact desired by the Petro administration in advancing the peace process, likely increasing violent acts, while prioritizing military responses could likely sideline crucial peace talks and negotiations and deviate from addressing underlying issues of economic and social disparities.

Date: March 30, 2024

Location: Guasmo, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Parties involved: Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa; Ecuador; Guayaquil Prosecutor's Office; National Police of Ecuador (PN); Ecuadorian Armed Forces (FFAA); Ecuadorian criminal organizations; civilians; Europe; international drug cartels; national gangs

The event: An armed attack in the neighborhood of Guasmo resulted in nine deaths and ten injuries.[3] The gunmen entered a pedestrian street in a gray Chevrolet Spark and opened fire on a group of people engaged in sports activities. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. This attack is the third violent incident during the Easter holiday and the second in as many days. In 2023, the rate of violent deaths in Ecuador reached 40 per 100,000 people, one of the highest in the region.[4] On March 8, Noboa extended Ecuador’s state of emergency for 30 additional days.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The violence in the city of Guayaquil will very likely continue as this region concentrates the flux of cocaine toward Europe from Ecuador because of its port, one of the major ports in Latin America, where international drug cartels and national gangs fight for the location. This violence will very likely trigger military and national police reactions under the state of emergency, very likely increasing the presence of law enforcement in the area. Fights between criminal organizations and law enforcement will very likely cause collateral casualties among civilians.

  • While no group has claimed responsibility for this attack, authorities likely attribute it to the rise of violence between gang members. This attack comes days after a mass shooting carried out by local drug gang members, making it very likely linked and executed by the same group members. These attacks are likely aimed at creating fear in an attempt to take control of the region and launch their illicit operations.


[1] Hazy Hue by Army Sgt. Griffin Payne licensed under Public Domain

[2] Hard blow by the National Army to the 'Second Marquetalia' in Cauca left five dissidents dead, Infobae, March 2024,

[3] Gunmen in Ecuador kill 9, injure 10 others in attack in coastal city of Guayaquil as violence surges, AP, April 2024, 

[4] Ibid

[5] Presidencia Ecuador, X, March 8 2024,



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