So when local people watched a contingent of 140 rebels file through the town on their way to demobilization camps as part of a peace deal, it was with a sense of ambivalence: some bade farewell – others good riddance.
But since the rebels abandoned the area in late January, supporters and critics have shared the same fears.
Townspeople, police and the military are on high alert as other criminal groups attempt to fill the power vacuum. Robberies, murders and petty crime are soaring and unidentified citizens appear to be trying to establish private vigilante groups.
“No one has taken over here yet, but there is a lot buzz, a lot of rumours,” says Manzur Silva, a community leader in El Encanto, a nearby village, and a spokesman for local farmers who grow coca, the raw material for cocaine. “Everyone’s nervous,” he says.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia fought the Colombian state for more than half a century before last year’s historic deal with the government, which put an end to a conflict that has left more than 230,000 dead and millions displaced from their homes. …