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IMMINENT WARNING: Terrorist Attack on Colombian Presidential Caravan

Date: August 24, 2022

Jan García, Daniel Ruiz, Juliet Sites, Aina Merino Bello, Marina Damji, Julia Tsarnas, SOUTHCOM

Salomon Montaguth, Justin Maurina, Editor; Hannah Norton, Senior Editor



Map highlighting the Norte de Santander Region, pointing El Tarra municipality[1]



Event: On August 24, 2022, three vehicles of Gustavo Petro's presidential caravan were detained in the afternoon in the municipality of El Tarra, Norte de Santander.[2] The officers were attacked during an illegal checkpoint set up by at least six members of an armed group, potentially from the 33rd front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents and the National Liberation Army (ELN).[3] The event left one truck damaged, the second with its driver detained, and the third arrived with three unharmed occupants at the municipality of El Tarra after sustaining several shots.[4] President Petro opted to postpone his agenda, which included the inauguration of several of his collaborators on Wednesday.[5] Petro's government indicated that the events occurred in a highly complex area due to its violent, social, economic, and drug trafficking conditions.[6]


Significance: Petro’s caravan detainment will likely increase public support for his “Total Peace” plan, due to the perpetual threat of gang violence. Members of the ELN and 33rd front of FARC dissidents will very likely attempt to use the threat of more attacks as leverage during peace negotiations, decreasing the likelihood of the “Total Peace” success. This attack will likely halt the implementation of the “Total Peace” plan as the government will very likely carry out military operations to counter armed groups. Armed groups will likely ask for benefits during negotiations that complicate peace talks, like an exchange of prisoners. The attack will likely increase short term competition between regionally operating drug trafficking groups, such as the ELN and the 33rd front of the FARC dissidents. Drug trafficking groups will likely have more confidence following this attack, likely encouraging them to seek control of drug trafficking routes and coca crops. Increased gang activity will likely escalate to violent action, endangering civilians and infrastructure in regions like Norte de Santander. This attack shows that armed groups are becoming increasingly confrontational towards the government, so future attacks on Petro and his government will likely occur.


Recommendations

  • It is recommended that Petro moves to enter into renegotiations of the 2016 Peace Agreement with FARC dissidents. This should include a plan to implement all aspects of the peace agreement effectively. One option is via the reintegration of the United Nations Security Council to monitor its implementation and ensure progress toward peace.

  • It is recommended to deploy Colombian law enforcement to locate and close illegal checkpoints. Security forces should inspect the checkpoint where the presidential caravan was detained to begin its investigation and plan actionable measures to prevent future detainments. Options for future actionable measures include: collecting intelligence prior to convoy movements to avoid potential routes that could include checkpoints; set up area oriented support to protect the escort; and set up a scout vehicle to pass through regions prior to the escort.

  • It is recommended that the president's security team examine different possible routes for the presidential caravan beforehand and keep the chosen route confidential, decreasing the likelihood of future attacks. It is also recommended presidential security forces appoint secondary, identical official vehicles as acting caravans to confuse armed groups.

  • It is recommended that the Colombian justice system focuses on the effective prosecution of armed group members. It is also recommended that the Colombian government allocate resources to combat these groups to prevent future kidnappings in the region and improve security conditions to mitigate the risk of recurrence.

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) will continue monitoring this issue for future developments. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H) Officers will monitor Colombia for increased violence by armed groups against the Colombian government and other violent developments in the region. If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-248 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

 

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1] Lo que se sabe del ataque a avanzada presidencial en el Catatumbo, by Jan García, via Flourish

[2] Grupo de esquema de seguridad de Petro fue secuestrado en el Catatumbo, Pulzo, August 2022, https://www.pulzo.com/nacion/grupo-esquema-seguridad-petro-fue-secuestrado-catatumbo-PP1792946

[3] Retienen vehículos de la avanzada presidencial de Gustavo Petro en Norte de Santander, Infobae, August 2022, https://www.infobae.com/america/colombia/2022/08/24/retienen-dos-vehiculos-de-la-avanzada-presidencial-de-gustavo-petro-en-norte-de-santander/ (translated by Daniel Ruiz)

[4] Presidencia reveló qué pasó exactamente con la avanzada del presidente Gustavo Petro atacada en Catatumbo. Esta es la historia, Semana, August 2022, https://www.semana.com/nacion/cucuta/articulo/lo-ultimo-avanzada-presidencial-fue-retenida-en-el-catatumbo-por-grupos-armados/202202/ (translated by Daniel Ruiz)

[5] Grupo de esquema de seguridad de Petro fue secuestrado en el Catatumbo, Pulzo, August 2022, https://www.pulzo.com/nacion/grupo-esquema-seguridad-petro-fue-secuestrado-catatumbo-PP1792946 (translated by Daniel Ruiz) Abalean avanzada de caravana presidencial en Catatumbo, El Tiempo, August 2022, https://www.eltiempo.com/politica/gobierno/en-catatumbo-abalean-carros-de-avanzada-del-presidente-petro-697191

[6] Lo que se sabe del ataque a avanzada presidencial en el Catatumbo, Portafolio, August 2022, https://www.portafolio.co/economia/gobierno/gustavo-petro-todo-sobre-el-taque-a-avanzada-presidencial-en-el-catatumbo-570021

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