Damage from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) bomb attacks has caused a significant oil spill, contaminated two rivers, and caused Colombia’s Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, the second biggest by volume, to be shut down, the Colombian army said on Wednesday.
FARC blew up the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline and a number of oil pumps in the Catatumbo region controlled by FARC, reported Caracol Radio.
In an attempt to contain the spill, state-run Ecopetrol which operates the pipeline through its subsidiary Cenit, has shut down pumps and suspended all operations in the area.
The shutdown will not immediately affect Colombia’s crude oil exports since the ports have sufficient stocks to ship out to refineries.
Ecopetrol said the military has entered the area to ensure oil workers are able to carry out repairs. The company said it was helping truck clean drinking water to local communities affected by the spill into the Catatumbo river as well as another spill in the southwest last week.
In a separate incident, the Colombian army confirmed that four troops on patrol in the southern province of Caqueta were also killed on Wednesday by FARC rebels using remote-controlled explosives and machine gun fire.
Composed of Marxist rebels, the 8,000 members-strong FARC and the Colombian government have been in peace talks since November 2012 in order to put a stop to a 51-year civil war.
The conflict has so far caused about 200,000 deaths and displaced 6 million people since 1964.
FARC lifted a unilateral ceasefire it had declared in December on May 22 and has since carried out near-daily attacks in the southwest where it is most powerful. The attacks have hit roadways, power networks and crude oil trucks and pipelines, leaving Colombians without power and with polluted water supplies.
The peace talks, held in Havana, have continued despite ongoing attacks by FARC and retaliation by Colombian forces.
The talks have already produced partial agreements on rural reform, FARC to abandon drug trafficking activities, and FARC’s integration into Colombian political life.
Two negotiating points remain: Victims and the end of violence.
The Colombian government and the FARC recently agreed on the formation of a truth commission that would be assembled upon the signing of a final agreement and would investigate what happened during the conflict.
The 38th round of peace talks began in Cuba on June 17 despite a decision by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to intensify military attacks on guerilla groups, TeleSUR reported.
On Tuesday, ahead of the peace talks, Santos said “I am perfectly confident that we have a real opportunity to put the conflict in the only place it belongs: the history books.”
While FARC’s press statement revealed a hopeful stance “to make an agreement that will stop the conflict immediately, without waiting for the signing of a final agreement,” the Colombian government seeks a final agreement before a bilateral ceasefire can be implemented.
“We … put aside our disagreements, despite the inconsistencies of the discourse and actions of the government, which do nothing but ignite tensions in the country, and we once again call for a bilateral ceasefire that will bring relief and newfound hope to our people,” the FARC statement read.
Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombia’s former ambassador to the United States, returned to Bogota on June 17 to become the new defence minister. Before moving to the United States to seek support for the peace talks, he was part of the Colombian government’s peace negotiation team in Havana.
On the same day, President Santos told the press “we can say that, in practice, the post-conflict has begun in Colombia.”