Colombian National Army Helps Bring Progress to Remote Regions

Colombian National Army Helps Bring Progress to Remote Regions

By Dialogo
March 26, 2015




The Colombian Ministry of Defense is implementing the country's National Consolidation Plan in an effort to aid communities directly affected by armed conflict between violent guerrilla organizations and government security forces.

Under this initiative, the National Army provides direct assistance in building infrastructure projects that facilitate the recovery of territory by the State and increase the population’s ability to access essential services, such as education, health care, and the justice system. Enacted in 2007, it aims to establish the State's presence in traditionally ungoverned areas that have been affected by illegal armed groups; by improving residents' access to social services and supporting economic development, the government hopes to break the cycle of violence.

In Colombia, the management, oversight, planning and execution of such public works projects falls under the Office of the Chief of Engineering, which has brought together highly trained Soldiers to form the Directorate of Risk Management for Consolidation and Disaster Prevention.

Delegating that effort to the Troops allows the plan to proceed efficiently, since the presence of Soldiers prevents outlaw groups from extorting private construction businesses. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) frequently charge construction companies so-called “protection” fees in exchange for guarantees that the businesses will be allowed to perform their work. In many cases, the extorted sums reach 10 to 15 percent of the cost of each project.

Building roads to prosperity


Through the plan, the government also hopes to reinvigorate local economies by recuperating vulnerable zones in the national territory. Regions benefitting this year include the departments of Caquetá, Norte de Santander, Córdoba, Putumayo, Cauca, Valle de Cauca, Meta, Boyacá, Antioquia, and Tolima.

For instance, one component of the plan, the Transversal de La Macarena roadway project, will connect the departments of Meta and Huila, and eventually link Colombia to Ecuador and Venezuela. Construction of the roadway, which began on June 17, 2009, will unite Colombia's Pacific region with the east, eliminating the need to go through Bogotá. The 221-kilometer road is part of the “Competitiveness-Enhancing Arterial Roadways Project,” which began in 2009.

The Army's Construction Engineering Battalion No. 53 estimates that it will finish paving a stretch of 35 kilometers scheduled for this year by December 31, when 71 percent of the project will be completed.

Meanwhile, Soldiers are also building the Junín-Barbacoas or highway -- a road that will connect the municipality of Barbacoas, in the Department of Nariño, with the rest of the country. It will reach 27 kilometers by June 20, and will benefit an approximate 70,000 people directly and 450,000 indirectly.

Another component of the Competitiveness-Enhancing Arterial Roadways Program, the Carretera de la Soberanía
highway will provide to residents of the departments of of Arauca, Boyacá, Santander, and Norte de Santander the only roadway that allows them to travel without passing through Venezuela – hence the name, “La Soberanía” (Sovereignty).

The area around the road’s length is suitable for cattle ranches, agriculture, and logging. Soldiers will have to lay about 150 kilometers of pavement to complete the road, which should be finished by December.



The Colombian Ministry of Defense is implementing the country's National Consolidation Plan in an effort to aid communities directly affected by armed conflict between violent guerrilla organizations and government security forces.

Under this initiative, the National Army provides direct assistance in building infrastructure projects that facilitate the recovery of territory by the State and increase the population’s ability to access essential services, such as education, health care, and the justice system. Enacted in 2007, it aims to establish the State's presence in traditionally ungoverned areas that have been affected by illegal armed groups; by improving residents' access to social services and supporting economic development, the government hopes to break the cycle of violence.

In Colombia, the management, oversight, planning and execution of such public works projects falls under the Office of the Chief of Engineering, which has brought together highly trained Soldiers to form the Directorate of Risk Management for Consolidation and Disaster Prevention.

Delegating that effort to the Troops allows the plan to proceed efficiently, since the presence of Soldiers prevents outlaw groups from extorting private construction businesses. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) frequently charge construction companies so-called “protection” fees in exchange for guarantees that the businesses will be allowed to perform their work. In many cases, the extorted sums reach 10 to 15 percent of the cost of each project.

Building roads to prosperity


Through the plan, the government also hopes to reinvigorate local economies by recuperating vulnerable zones in the national territory. Regions benefitting this year include the departments of Caquetá, Norte de Santander, Córdoba, Putumayo, Cauca, Valle de Cauca, Meta, Boyacá, Antioquia, and Tolima.

For instance, one component of the plan, the Transversal de La Macarena roadway project, will connect the departments of Meta and Huila, and eventually link Colombia to Ecuador and Venezuela. Construction of the roadway, which began on June 17, 2009, will unite Colombia's Pacific region with the east, eliminating the need to go through Bogotá. The 221-kilometer road is part of the “Competitiveness-Enhancing Arterial Roadways Project,” which began in 2009.

The Army's Construction Engineering Battalion No. 53 estimates that it will finish paving a stretch of 35 kilometers scheduled for this year by December 31, when 71 percent of the project will be completed.

Meanwhile, Soldiers are also building the Junín-Barbacoas or highway -- a road that will connect the municipality of Barbacoas, in the Department of Nariño, with the rest of the country. It will reach 27 kilometers by June 20, and will benefit an approximate 70,000 people directly and 450,000 indirectly.

Another component of the Competitiveness-Enhancing Arterial Roadways Program, the Carretera de la Soberanía
highway will provide to residents of the departments of of Arauca, Boyacá, Santander, and Norte de Santander the only roadway that allows them to travel without passing through Venezuela – hence the name, “La Soberanía” (Sovereignty).

The area around the road’s length is suitable for cattle ranches, agriculture, and logging. Soldiers will have to lay about 150 kilometers of pavement to complete the road, which should be finished by December.
How can security be brought to people in a border region like Cucuta, when everything, starting with the authorities, move to the rhythm set out by the drug traffickers, and whoever dares to report anything ends up being a victim of the powerful ones who run that criminal activity. The Military Civic Action initiative began in 1960, led by General Ruiz Novoa. The Armed Forces' discipline and ability to serve, their patriotism can be greater than the ability of private enterprise. Personally, we taught literacy to more than 3,000 soldiers in the training center of the "Garcia Rovira" infantry battalion in Pamplona. The National Police and the Army need to be given broad functions in border regions where the lack of State presence is filled by groups of criminals, drug traffickers, smugglers, etc. In 1970, I was at the border in Guajira. The desolation was tremendous and only General Matallana, as Director of Civilian Defense, was able to carry out limited actions geared toward the civilian population.
I haven't been able to understand why the infrastructure built by military engineers was not supported, to follow up on what was supported by the Alliance for Progress.
Why not give the equipment seized from illegal mining to the military engineers? They can go into abandoned areas, poor municipalities and carry out infrastructure projects to bring about agricultural production and progress.
Now, if peace is achieved, this ability will become very important post-conflict.
Thank you for furnishing the contact information.
Sergeant Major (Ret) Army Spending so much on weapons, it's truly unheard of. Who thinks there could be a war in our America? And meanwhile, millions of poor people suffer being abandoned by stupid governments.
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