Marxist guerrillas blew up oil wells and pipelines in southern Colombia over the weekend after calling an end to a unilateral cease-fire last month.
Rebels attacked the Orito-San Miguel and Orito-Churuyaco pipelines in Putumayo province as well as the Loro 8 and Yurilla 1 wells in the area, state-controlled Ecopetrol SA said in an e-mailed reply to questions, without identifying which group carried out the attack. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has a presence in the area. Transportation in the pipelines and a combined 305 barrels a day of oil output at the fields have been halted, the company said.
A December cease-fire was suspended on May 22 after armed forces killed 26 rebels in an attack last month. Attacking oil targets is less unpopular with the Colombian public than killing civilians and soldiers, and allows the guerrillas to demonstrate that they retain the ability to disrupt the economy, said Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist at the Washington Office on Latin America.
“They’re trying to show that they still have the power to do a lot of damage,” Isacson said in a phone interview Monday. “They’ve chosen not to hit lethal civilian targets, and they’re trying to hit the economy more than anything.”
Attacks on oil pipelines dropped 90 percent between January and April, compared to the same period in 2014, according to the Ministry of Defense. Guerrilla attacks on oil infrastructure last year contributed to the first annual decline in Colombian production since 2005, with average daily output falling below 1 million barrels. This year daily output has recovered to more than 1 million barrels as the number of attacks declined.
Ecopetrol’s average output in the first quarter was 773,400 barrels of oil equivalent a day, up 1 percent from a year earlier. Colombian government and FARC negotiators are continuing peace talks in Havana which began in 2012, in a bid to end the Andean nation’s five-decade internal conflict.