Fighting between the ELN guerrilla group (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) and the EPL crime organization (Ejército Popular de Liberación; a.k.a. Los Pelusos) escalated around the village of Mesitas in the Catatumbo region on Thursday, November 1. According to officials from the Hacarí municipality, at least 400 residents were displaced by the clashes, and at least two fighters were killed. Further violence between the ELN and EPL is likely in Catatumbo in the near-term.
A violent turf war being fought between the ELN and the EPL crime organization over the Catatumbo region (Norte de Santander department) has been ongoing since the start of 2018. 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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