The Colombian military is deploying in response to widespread armed violence between the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC, Clan del Golfo, Los Urabenos, Clan Usaga) and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito del Liberacion Nacional, ELN) in southern Choco department at the end of September 14. The conflict centered on the community of San Miguel in Medio San Juan, where armed clashes began around 5:00 p.m. on September 12. More than 1,000 civilians have since fled the area. The Colombian army claims that the control of drug trafficking routes has caused the conflict between these groups. The army is carrying out sweeping and demining operations to secure the area. There were no initial reports of casualties.
An increased military presence is almost certain in the south of the Choco department in the coming weeks. Further clashes are likely between the ELN and ATG and the Colombian army. Disruptions to transit and business operations are likely. Authorities could impose curfews, roadblocks and movement restrictions.
San Miguel is about 104 km (65 miles) north of Buenaventura.
Both the AGC and the ELN are entrenched paramilitary groups in the far north of Colombia; both rely heavily on the production and distribution of cocaine for their funding. This outbreak of violence is occurring in the first weeks of the presidency of Gustavo Petro, who came to power on a platform of pursuing de-escalation and peace with the AGC and ELN.
Consider postponing non-essential travel to southern Choco Department until the situation stabilizes. Avoid all military installations, administrative buildings and strategic infrastructure that could be the target of attacks. Liaise with trusted contacts.
Avoid areas of apparent military or paramilitary activity or concentrations of security personnel. Leave the area immediately in case of violence; shelter in a secure building, away from exterior walls. Confirm routes, road access conditions and destination security before making ground movements and when planning cargo shipments. If you are traveling overland, do so in a convoy and allow extra time to reach destinations due to possible roadblocks. Get satellite phones for emergencies. Register and maintain contact with diplomatic missions.