Juan Guillermo Zuluaga, the governor of central Colombia’s Meta region, told reporters on Tuesday he survived two attempts on his life — the first by a sniper and the second via explosive device — within a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, Voice of America (VOA) reported.
“[T]he vehicle I was traveling in was hit by a sniper,” Gov. Zuluaga told W Radio Colombia of the first armed attack he allegedly experienced on October 10.
Iniciamos el tercer día del recorrido histórico por el sur del Meta. Salimos desde San Juan de Lozada, rumbo a La Macarena, más de 140 km. De camino, un tinto con don Miguel y doña Olga en la vereda La Machaca.
¡Seguimos en el territorio escuchando a nuestros paisanos! pic.twitter.com/sOkDhCzwz8
— Juan Guillermo Zuluaga (@JuanGZuluaga) October 11, 2021
Then, on the afternoon of October 11, “‘an explosive device’ was detonated as a caravan of vehicles Zuluaga was traveling in passed by,” VOA relayed.
Gov. Zuluaga said he escaped both incidents unharmed. He said an unidentified adult and a six-year-old child traveling with him in his caravan were wounded by “the shards from the explosive device.”
The governor further revealed he was later warned, “about a third planned attack” on his convoy “at a site where we were intending to go,” but said he successfully evaded this alleged attempt.
Zuluaga said the second attack he allegedly suffered on Monday took place in an area of Meta known as “La Macarena.” The district “has historically been occupied by the [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] FARC and today retains a dissident presence under the command of ‘Gentil Duarte,’ a drug trafficker for whom the Government offers up to 2,000 million pesos in reward,” W Radio reported on October 12.
The Meta region was the former stronghold of FARC, which was an armed militant group opposed to Colombia’s government until it agreed to a historic peace deal in 2016 to lay down its arms. The group later formed a Communist political party. FARC often targeted political leaders attempting to govern regions within its sphere of influence in the roughly half a century before it disbanded.
Some FARC loyalists rejected the 2016 peace deal and continue to operate within remote parts of Colombia. These guerrillas often compete with other armed groups “for control of the lucrative drug-trafficking and illegal mining and logging markets,” the U.S. government-funded VOA noted on Tuesday. Locals living in districts of Colombia still harboring militant groups often face violence or extortion at the dissidents’ hands, according to the broadcaster.
The administration of Colombian President Ivan Duque has blamed FARC dissidents for a series of attacks across Colombia in recent months, Al Jazeera reported on October 12.
“In July, the government arrested 10 FARC dissidents accused of being involved in attacks on a helicopter carrying Duque and on a military base,” the news outlet recalled.