FARC Attacks Setback for Colombia Oil

Recent attacks against the Cańo Limon-Coveńas pipeline cut the daily production by 7 percent, a setback as Colombia seeks to increase its oil exports.

There were 259 attacks on oil pipeline infrastructure in Colombia last year, the highest figure in a decade, according to Defense Ministry data. Who has been behind the attacks, and what factors are driving them? How have they affected the country's oil output? Will the situation get worse or better? What should be done to improve the security situation for Colombia's energy sector?

Christina L. Madden, director at the Council on Global Security and Governance: The success of Colombia's oil industry in recent years has made it a target of attacks by the country's two largest rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). While the stated motive of both leftist groups is to broaden citizens' access to natural resource royalties, the attacks point toward the rebel groups' desperate attempts to maintain leverage during ongoing peace negotiations. For the ELN, the attacks and kidnappings are a way to demonstrate that it poses a serious enough threat to be included in the negotiations. In the case of the FARC, the attacks also signify a change in the group's tactics following a series of high-level losses in recent years and the appointment of a new commander, Timochenko. It is worth noting that the FARC and ELN are not the only actors taking issue with the country's oil and gas boom. Following a rebel attack on the Cańo Limón-Coveńas pipeline in March, delays were caused to the pipeline repairs when the indigenous U'wa community blocked access to the site, demanding the pipeline be rerouted away from their territory and that a nearby gas exploration project be halted due to environmental concerns. Security issues and social unrest have led to short-term production interruptions, increased transportation costs and waning investor confidence. Shares of several local energy companies are down, and Colombia's overall oil output fell to an average 935,000 barrels per day in April, the lowest level since August 2012 and well below the record of 1.12 million barrels per day reached last November. The current situation, however, has not yet affected long-term forecasts for the country's economic growth or oil projections. Rebel attacks have historically been more frequent leading up to an election, and the severity of the attacks on Colombia's energy sector may diminish after the upcoming presidential election and the conclusion of peace negotiations.

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