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A Test of Governance: CCAI and the Legitimacy of the La Union Peneya Resettlement

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick J. Christian, US Army Special Forces


US MILGP-Colombia PATT Station Florencia (6th Division, COLAR)

On 17 January 2007, elements of the FARCs Teofilo Forero Mobil Column or TFMC
crippled the Nestle Milk processing plant in the village of El Doncello, Department of
Caquet, southern Colombia.
In the early morning hours, a
truck bomb was driven up to
the plant and it exploded
destroying Caquets primary
milk processing plant and
bringing milk processing for the
departments dairy farmers to
less than 30% of capacity.
Sources confided to military
and police investigators that
plant officials had recently
become confident enough in
the security of the Department
of Caquet to begin refusing to
pay the routine extortion
Destroyed Nestles Milk Plant, El Doncello, Caquet demands of the FARCs 15th
Front and TFMCs 3rd, 4th and
6th Companies operating in western central
Caquet. The destruction of the plants
facilities was accompanied by the wounding
and killing of several plant workers who were
on duty at the time. Given the plants central
position in processing the milk for the
departments dairy farmers and the number of
jobs it provides, the outcry over the bombing
was substantial. One positive development
which resulted from this incident was the start
of a (long overdue) public-private sector
partnership for infrastructure security and the
development of better governance. Bloody parking lot in front of Nestle Milk
Plant, El Doncello, Caquet

Interagency & Intergovernmental Civil Military Operations


This partnership took the form of a unique interagency and intergovernmental
civil-military-police operations (CMO) coordinating group of about 30 40 officials
from both the public and private sectors of Caquet. This coordinating group (calling
themselves a Gran Comit) brought itself into existence under the guidance of the
departmental military brigade
and the Presidents Accin
Social coordinator of
operations for Caquet. After
four difficult days of bargaining
over the direction and agenda
of this CMO coordinating
group, they finally held their
first meeting with the US
Embassy-Bogotas Political
Officer and members of the US
Southern Commands J5 Office
of Plans & Policy as observers.
The group now meets
regularly to manage issues
such as infrastructure
maintenance and construction,
First meeting of the Florencia, Caquet based Interagency,
critical infrastructure
Intergovernmental Civil-Military Coordinating Group
vulnerability identification and
remediation, and managing the many civic action (Accin Social) projects which
involve a myriad of agencies and levels of government. One such ongoing project
involves the resettlement of the formerly abandoned town of La Union Peneya.

The village of La Union Peneya (formerly of approximately 2000 inhabitants) in


southern Colombia was abandoned in January of 2004 when government troops from
the 12th Brigade and FARC Forces fought for control of
the town. During fierce fighting between government
forces and insurgents using the town as a base of
support and operations, significant portions of the
town sustained damage including the hospital
clinic, church, both the elementary and high
schools as well as many of the residents
homes. As the fighting grew, the
inhabitants (led by the towns catholic
priest) who were not active
members of the FARC insurgency
relocated to homes of relatives in
nearby villages and municipalities.
After eliminating FARC resistance
in the Municipality of Montanita
where La Union Peneya is located,
the 12th Brigades Guipe Battalion
established a company sized outpost in the hills overlooking the town. For the next
three and half years, the village remained abandoned as it lay, guarded by
government forces stationed there. There was never any evidence of looting by
government forces, but the town suffered serious deterioration over the years with no
one to maintain it. This past July 2006, in concert with Accin Social, the Department
of Caquet, the Bishop of Caquet, and supported by advisory assistance from the US
PATT, the 12th Brigade began laying plans for the reestablishment of La Union Peneya
and the return of its inhabitants. After initial consultations with religious leaders who
signaled their willingness to assist, the joint teams of Federal, Departmental and
Municipal officials began laying the groundwork for the return of over a thousand
known inhabitants.

The first returnees arrived in La


Union Peneya on the 25 of January
2007 and the opening ceremonies
occurred over the weekend of
Saturday and Sunday the 3rd & 4th
of February 2007. In a two day
extravaganza for these battered
inhabitants, a host of Federal,
Department, and Municipal
agencies as well as Colombian
Military and Police forces provided
a wide range of services such as
Orthodontic and dental care,
medical diagnostic and
Colombian officials discuss the planned resettlement vaccinations, clothing and shoe
of La Union Peneya with US Military Group and repair, haircuts, child nutritional
US Southern Command officers supplements, and of course, typical
Colombian entertainment with the
6th Division Band & Musical Group.
The real civil-military work occurred during 8 hours of hard negotiating between
members of the civil-military
coordinating team led by the
Governor of Caquet and
President Uribes Accin Social.
Their efforts were supported by
the 12th Brigade Commander and
the Municipality of Montanita. In
an atmosphere that ranged from
conciliatory to accusatory, the
parties argued the relative merits
of the suffering and hardship
endured against the backdrop of
scarce funding, limited resources
and the ever present threat of
hunger and attacks by the FARCs
15th Front which operates in the
area. Much of the Governors
Fromupperleftclockwise:vaccinationstand;beddingforreturnees;
messages dealt with patience, barbershop;shoe&clothingrepair,dentalandorthodonticservices;
and he appeared to have deep medicaldiagnostic&treatment;welcomingcommittee;andthe6th
support for his message. Many DivisionBand
of the returnees were familiar
with him and the towns returning residents nearly mobbed him while he passed out
health and education booklets to the residents.
Unfortunately for the governor and the residents of La Union Peneya, their
struggle for survival began soon after they arrived. The night of the second day of
opening ceremonies, the 15th Front detonated a
cylinder bomb less than a kilometer outside of the
town. Despite military fortifications and security
outposts located in all directions by a company of
the Guepi Battalion and the 87th Counter Guerrilla
Battalion, the 15th Front managed to make its
presence felt in the 2 months following the
resettlement. The FARC leadership clearly
understands the stakes in permitting the return of
elected civil governance to La Union Peneya. Such
a major coup by Colombians in their quest to build
legitimacy of governance may cause the FARC to increase its efforts to penetrate the
security buffer protecting this fragile experiment in resettlement. In the weeks
following the resettlement, government troops securing the village were repeatedly
engaged by FARC forces trying to slip past them as they tried to attack the village. At
one point, two FARC guerrillas were killed in action as they tried to lay a minefield (of
9 anti-personnel mines) along the outskirts of the town. Had they been successful,
this one act might have been sufficient to demonstrate to the returnees that their
government cannot protect them.
As the damage all around the cleaned up areas of La Union Peneya continues to
attest, bringing peace to this town against the will of the FARC will be an uphill battle.
The newly formed Gran
Comit, or interagency,
intergovernmental
coordinating group for
civil-military operations
may be the only way
this town will survive a
concerted effort to wrest
it from civilian control.
The working groups
ability to coordinate
humanitarian relief,
infrastructure security
and the reestablishment
of its supporting farms,
dairies and ranches
seems to be the only
way ahead for the
department of Caquets
From upperleft clockwise: newly returned residents listen as designated town
ongoing struggle for the leaders press for 3 years of lost services and infrastructure; US Embassy & SCJ5
hearts and minds of the personnel observe bargaining; Secretary of Education for Caquet Dr. Fransisco
Caqueteos of southern Javier Montes Tangarife; BG Jamie Calderon CDR 12th BDE with The Governor of
Colombia. Caquet,JuanCarlosClarosPinzonandhisspouse
La Union Peneya as an objective lesson in Governance and test of Political Legitimacy

The resettled town of La Union Peneya has now come to represent an ongoing
lesson in modern governance, and has become a test for political and social legitimacy
in a Department still heavily contested by the FARC. As a resettled town, La Union
Peneya has some of the most difficult problems facing any state and county level
government. The problems associated with this town cross every public and private
agency operating in the municipality and department, including those belonging to
national level offices. For every problem that one public or private agency begins
dealing with, their resolution trail quickly ends in another agency. Their frustration
level over the complexity of the towns problems is exceeded only by the frustration of
the townspeople who struggle with daily existence. Some of the problems faced by
the public and private agencies involve the most critical elements of social stability;
land ownership and employment &
education opportunity.

- Homes (viviendas) Titles: only 15 of


367 families living in La Union Peneya have
title or legal permission to live in the house
they are occupying. The remaining
occupied houses are rented (17) or have
been simply taken over by returned
residents who are squatting (335).
Farm (fincas) Titles: only 32 of 80
established small farms are in the hands of legal owners. The remaining 48 are
occupied by squatters who are daily improving them and who will one day try to lay
claim to them against their legal owners.
- Small Businesses ownership: there are now
27 retail or service shops operating in La Union
Peneya; but their ability to succeed depends upon the
cash flow into the town from exports to the
municipality, department and beyond.
- Beyond this, Accin Social (President Uribes
coordination agency for internal social development)
reports that an additional 260 members of that town
posses temporary or part-time employment. However,
a survey of this work shows that these jobs do not
increase the amount of money circulating through the
economy of La Union Peneya.
- All three of the towns schools are in ruins, and
the townspeople are making do with makeshift
facilities until they can obtain resources to rebuild.

These statistics outline the unemployment situation


within the town, and its corresponding susceptibility to recruiting by the FARCs 15th
Front. At 80% unemployment, the town continues to survive only by ongoing aid by
the various public and private support organizations. Given La Union Peneyas history
as a former safe haven for the insurgents, evidenced by the significant excavation of
the towns facilities and streets by the Army looking for weapons caches, a return to
FARC control of the town is
not unthinkable.

The Caquet Occidental


Gran Comit de Cooperacin
has taken responsibility for
identifying problems and
solutions for the resettlement
of La Union Peneya, and it is
this struggle to bring
agencies and government
entities together that has
raised the stakes for the
Colombians. The public
commitment of this
coordinating group poses an
important challenge to the
NewlyreturnedresidentsstoptolistenwhiletheCaquetGovernorJuan Southern Block leadership of
CarlosClarosPinzonexplainstheresultsofhisnegotiationswiththetowns the FARC. If this Gran
designated leaders and the way ahead for rebuilding the Comit is successful (real or
town
perceived) then FARC Inc will
find itself with a diminishing resource base from which to satisfy production, security
and transportation demand as well as safe havens from which to launch military
operations. The Gran
Comit faces obstacles
to its success based
upon cultural
resistance to
participation in non-
hierarchical
organizational
structures
characteristic of
modern interagency,
intergovernmental,
public-private
partnerships. The
cultural dependence on
hierarchy is deep
rooted in their
Spaniard
Weltanschauung of the
individual as strong Before and After photos of the Medical Clinic at La Union Peneya: Photos include
man as savior theAmbulance,Pharmacy,ExaminingRooms,ConsultOffices,PatientRecordsand
paradigm. This puts OBGynsection.AsofearlyFebruary2007,acombinedMissionMedicalteamfrom
the leaders of the the DepartmentofCaquetandtheMunicipalityofMontanita/Florencia isliving&
workingonsitetorepairthefacilityandrestartcommunity medicalsupport.
many agencies at odds as they struggle for influence and control in the inter-
organizational process of cooperation. Often, the key to success has been the careful
selection of appropriate attendees who do not conflict with the groups status quo, or
lead to a competition over who is in charge. Other barriers to success of government
effectiveness are the relative maturity of government employees versus the
requirements of their positions. In the complicated environment of war-torn southern
Colombia, seasoned, experienced government leaders would have a difficult time with
the interagency, intergovernmental challenges presented here. The chief planner and
engineer of the Department of Caquet for instance (who works in the Secretariat of
Infrastructure), is supposed to work with the head of planning and engineering for the
Municipality of Montanita to organize scopes of work and estimates for repairing the
water system and
preparing to receive the
US Embassy contractors
who are going to
supervise the renovation
of the 3 schools in La
Union Peneya. During
this process, the US
PATT advisors spend a
great deal of precious
time pushing these
officials to exchange
email addresses and
phone numbers, and
coordinate, communicate
and partner on a daily
basis. Only after
technology barriers are
overcome, are we
successful in pushing
these government
representatives to
coordinate their
activities, riven as they
are with sectarian agency
protection.
Adding to the difficulty
of cultural biases against
interagency partnering is
the ongoing FARC
military operations
against La Union Peneya,
and the rapid
expenditures of
resources required to combat the growing threat. The area of La Union Peneya is key
terrain for the FARCs 15th Front. Lying astride the Peneya River, it is an important
north-south mobility corridor to the FARC. With the return of the population and its
accompanying commerce, farming, and security services, this corridor is degraded.
Prior to the resettlement of La Union Peneya, a platoon oversaw security for the
abandoned town. Now however, the Brigade Commander (BG Calderon) is forced to
station 160 180 soldiers there supported by an engineer platoon to harden their
positions. The amount of helicopter support required by the Gran Comit in
performing its civil affairs and nation building functions has stressed the available
flight hours of both the Bell Ranger helicopter and the MI-17 Transport helicopter used
to ferry supplies to the town. With talk and planning of repaving the road, intelligence
reports increased presence of FARC intelligence gathering, as a repaved road would
cut the time of travel between La Union Peneya to Montanita from 6 hours to 1.5.
This would have the effect of negating the 15th Fronts ability to interdict the road with
extortion demands and permit the Army to reinforce its garrison there on a 2 hour
notice, increasing dramatically the operational risk of 15th Front operational field units
to destruction by the Colombian Army.
The participants in this life and death drama will ultimately determine their ability
to craft viable life and a supportable future in this battered land of southern Colombia.
The truest measurement of their right to succeed and live free is their willingness to
sacrifice for the future with deposits of blood, treasure and fear today. It is this
reluctance to suffer, borne of a deep sensitivity caused by generational life in a war
zone that has robbed them of their ability to trust in their future as a free culture.