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Colombia and Peru in Attempt to ‘Cleanse’ Putumayo

Bill Weinberg

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On Sept. 30, Peruvian President Ollanta Humalaand his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos and their respective cabinet ministers held a rare joint meeting in Peru’s Amazon river port of Iquitos. There, they signed a binational accord to launch a joint effort to “cleanse Putumayo” — a reference to the jungle river basin that has for many years been under the virtual control of criminal enterprises.

The Río Putumayo, a tributary of the Amazon, forms the border between the two countries in the lawless region. The Colombian side is a key stronghold of the FARC guerillas, which is believed to do business with the criminal gangs that operate freely on the Peruvian side. Santos said “we have common enemies, such as the narco-traffic, illegal mining and cutting of forests.” He did not mention that efforts at cooperation to get the Putumayo under control have been hampered by an ongoing border dispute in the area.

In the following days, the Colombian army’s Sixth Division launched a new offensive against the FARC’s 32nd, 48th and 49th fronts in Putumayo department, boasting of having neutralized more than 1,000 improvised explosive devices intended for use by the guerillas against roads and oil installations in the region. Predictably, the army operation has done nothing to relieve the horrific human rights climate in Putumayo. On Sept. 29, a four-year-old girl and her parents were slain by unknown gunmen who burst into their home in the Putumayo border town of Puerto Asís.

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