During a visit to the Catatumbo region (Norte de Santander department) on Sunday, October 28, President Ivan Duque announced that 5000 additional soldiers will be deployed to the region. According to President Duque, security forces will focus on disrupting and combating drug trafficking and illegal armed groups in Catatumbo. However, several social organizations in the region have asked the government not to deploy additional soldiers, fearing that such a move would only escalate the fighting. Around 8000 police and military personnel are already stationed in Cataumbo to improve security.
A violent turf war being fought between the ELN guerrilla group (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) and the EPL crime organization (Ejército Popular de Liberación; a.k.a. Los Pelusos) over the Catatumbo region (Norte de Santander department) has entered its eight month. The area had been vacated by the now-demobilized FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), creating a power vacuum in the lucrative coca-growing lands of the region, which produce an estimated 70 tons of coca annually. This violence has had a major impact on daily life in the region. Further violence, including armed clashes between the EPL and the ELN - as well as between the EPL or ELN and security forces - are to be expected in the Catatumbo region until further notice.
Catatumbo is located in the northeast of Norte de Santander and comprises the following 11 municipalities: Ábrego, Convención, El Carmen, El Tarra, Hacarí, La Playa, Ocaña, San Calixto, Sardinata, Teorama, and Tibú.
Individuals in Colombia are advised to keep abreast of the situation and continue to postpone nonessential travel to the Catatumbo region until further notice. On a more general note, due to the presence of a number of armed groups, some Western governments advise against travel to various parts of the country, including much of Norte de Santander department and other areas along the Venezuelan border.
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