The Cauca department, a mostly agricultural region, is particularly vulnerable to drug traffickers.
At least 333 people living in the department of Cauca, in southwest Colombia, have been forcibly displaced since late November the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) denounced Thursday.
The U.N. agency said the humanitarian issue is due to clashes between Colombia's Armed Forces, who have a strong presence in Cauca, and members of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), a leftist guerrilla group. Heavy clashes were registered by U.N. OCHA since Nov. 30, causing a "humanitarian impact on Campesino and Indigenous communities of the Cerro Tijeras community."
Cauca has been severely affected by violence. Not only due to the latest clashes but also due to government actions and paramilitary activity related to drug trafficking.
Last year, the Committee for the Integration of the Colombian Massif (CIMA) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), among other social organizations issued a statement denouncing that “the responses of the national government are constant breaches of agreements signed with communities and social organizations, major operations against communities and social organizations, leaving men and women dead, injured, and both families and communities displaced.”
Cauca is an impoverished, largely agricultural corridor that has been plagued by drug trafficking. Coca and marijuana are grown in the region, and many of the farmers who cultivate the crops were originally displaced from the Caqueta and Putumayo departments after a United States-sponsored aerial spraying campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The situation of violence in the Cauca department worsened after the Colombian state and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement in November 2016.
As FARC demobilized and surrendered territory in the department, paramilitary groups took advantage of the power vacuum and have created violent and insecure conditions, inciting terror through the murder of social leaders and human rights defenders.