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Anti-guerrilla paramilitarism in Colombia

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Anti-guerrilla paramilitarism in Colombia

Right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia are armed groups that claim to be acting in opposition to revolutionary Marxist-Leninist guerrilla forces and their allies among the civilian population. Anti-guerrilla paramilitary groups control the large majority of the illegal drug trade of cocaine and other substances and are the parties responsible for most of the human rights violations in the latter half of the ongoing Colombian Armed Conflict. According to several international human rights and governmental organizations, right-wing paramilitary groups have been responsible for at least 70 to 80% of political murders in Colombia per year, with the remainder committed by leftist guerrillas and government forces.

The first paramilitary groups were organized by the Colombian military following recommendations made by U.S. military counterinsurgency advisers who were sent to Colombia during the Cold War to combat leftist political activists and armed guerrilla groups. The development of later paramilitary groups has also involved elite landowners, drug traffickers, members of the security forces, politicians and multinational corporations. Paramilitary violence today is principally targeted towards peasants, unionists, indigenous people, human rights workers, teachers and left-wing political activists or their supporters.


  • History 1
    • Plan Lazo 1.1
    • Law 48 of 1968 1.2
    • Triple A 1.3
    • MAS, ACDEGAM and MORENA 1.4
      • MAS paramilitary 1.4.1
      • ACDEGAM 1.4.2
      • MORENA 1.4.3
    • The Castaño family and the ACCU 1.5
      • Los Tangueros 1.5.1
      • Foundation for the Peace of Córdoba 1.5.2
      • The ACCU 1.5.3
    • Anti-paramilitary decrees of 1989 1.6
    • Armed Forces Directive No. 200-05/91. 1.7
    • PEPES 1.8
    • CONVIVIR 1.9
  • The AUC 2
    • 2003-2006 demobilization process 2.1
    • Reintegration of ex-paramilitary fighters 2.2
  • Post-AUC successor criminal groups 3
  • Human rights violations 4
    • Massacres 4.1
      • The Mapiripan Massacre 4.1.1
      • The Alto Naya massacre 4.1.2
      • The Betoyes Massacre 4.1.3
    • Forcible displacement 4.2
    • Social cleansing 4.3
  • Financing 5
    • Drug trade 5.1
    • Financing by U.S. corporations 5.2
      • Chiquita Brands International 5.2.1
      • Drummond Coal 5.2.2
      • The Coca-Cola Company 5.2.3
  • Political activities 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Footnotes 8.1
    • Bibliography 8.2
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10
    • Movies 10.1


Plan Lazo

US General William P. Yarborough was the head of a counterinsurgency team sent to Colombia in 1962 by the US Special Warfare Center. Yarborough was one of the earliest proponents of "paramilitary [...] and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents"[1].

In October 1959, the United States sent a "Special Survey Team", composed of counterinsurgency experts, to investigate Colombia's internal security situation, due to the increased prevalence of armed communist self-defense communities in rural Colombia which formed during and after La Violencia.[2] Three years later, in February 1962, a Fort Bragg top-level U.S. Special Warfare team headed by Special Warfare Center commander General William P. Yarborough, visited Colombia for a second survey.[3]

In a secret supplement to his report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Yarborough encouraged the creation and deployment of a paramilitary force to commit sabotage and terrorist acts against communists:

A concerted country team effort should be made now to select civilian and military personnel for clandestine training in resistance operations in case they are needed later. This should be done with a view toward development of a civil and military structure for exploitation in the event the Colombian internal security system deteriorates further. This structure should be used to pressure toward reforms known to be needed, perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States."[4][5][6]

The new counter-insurgency policy was instituted as Plan Lazo in 1962 and called for both military operations and civic action programs in violent areas. Following Yarborough's recommendations, the Colombian military recruited civilians into paramilitary "civil defense" groups which worked alongside the military in its counter-insurgency campaign, as well as in civilian intelligence networks to gather information on guerrilla activity. Among other policy recommendations the US team advised that "in order to shield the interests of both Colombian and US authorities against 'interventionist' charges any special aid given for internal security was to be sterile and covert in nature."[2][6][7] It was not until the early part of the 1980s that the Colombian government attempted to move away from the counterinsurgency strategy represented by Plan Lazo and Yarborough's 1962 recommendations.[8]

Law 48 of 1968

The first outright legal framework for the training of civilians by military or police forces for security purposes was formally established by the Colombian presidential decree 3398 of 1965, issued during a [6] This decree temporarily allowed the formation of private security forces used to protect large landowners, cattle ranchers, and government officials.[6][9][10]

Decree 3398 was later succeeded by Law 48 of 1968, a piece of permanent legislation that gave the Colombian executive the power to establish civil patrols by decree and allowed the Defense Ministry to supply their members with military-grade weaponry.[6] Human Rights Watch has pointed out that "although few civil patrols were ever formally created by the president, the military frequently cited Law 48 as the legal foundation for their support for all paramilitaries."[6]

A series of Colombian military manuals from the 1960s encouraged the creation of paramilitary organizations to help fight guerrillas. In 1969, the Reglamento de EJC 3-10, Reservado, de 1969 ("EJC-3 Order, Restricted, 1969") stated that the armed forces should organize "self-defence committees" which were defined as "military-type organization made up of civilian personnel in the combat zone, which are trained and equipped to undertake operations against guerrilla groups that threaten an area or to operate in coordination with combat troops".[11] These committees were to maintain contact with local military officers, keeping a high level awareness about any suspicious communist action in their communities, in particular those of suspected "guerrilla supporters". The manual also allowed military personnel to dress in civilian clothes when necessary to infiltrate areas of suspected guerrilla influence, and also for civilian helpers to travel alongside military units. Separately, in order to help gain the trust of local citizens, the military was advised to participate in the daily activities of the community where applicable.[6]

Triple A

Between 1978 and 1979 an alleged far-right paramilitary organization known as the American Anti-communist Alliance (also AAA or Triple A) started a terror campaign against Colombian Colombian National Army and to the United States Embassy in Bogotá. Contemporary accusations and declassified U.S. Embassy documents have linked the creation and operation to the "Charry Solano" Battalion of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence (BINCI) that employed the Triple A name as a covert name.[12][13]


That they try to present me as an associate of the guerrilla ... hurts my personal dignity ... I am a man of investments and therefore I cannot sympathize with the guerrillas who fight against property.

Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin Cartel[14]

In the late 1970s, the illegal cocaine trade took off and became a major source of profit. By 1982, cocaine surpassed coffee as an export, making up 30% of all Colombian exports. Many members of the new class of wealthy drug barons began purchasing enormous quantities of land, in order to launder their drug money, and to gain social status amongst the traditional Colombian elite. By the late 1980s, drug traffickers were the largest landholders in Colombia and wielded immense political power. They used much of their land for grazing cattle, or left it completely idle as a show of wealth. They also raised private armies to fight off guerrillas who were trying to either redistribute their lands to local peasants, kidnap them, or extract the gramaje tax that was commonly levied on landed elites.[15][16][17]

MAS paramilitary

At the end of 1981 and the beginning of 1982, members of the Muerte a Secuestradores ("Death to Kidnappers", MAS) to defend their economic interests, to fight against the guerrillas, and to provide protection for local elites from kidnappings and extortion.[6][18][19] By 1983, Colombian internal affairs had registered 240 political killings by MAS death squads, mostly community leaders, elected officials, and farmers.[20]


The following year, the Asociación Campesina de Ganaderos y Agricultores del Magdalena Medio ("Association of Middle Magdalena Ranchers and Farmers", [6][21] ACDEGAM also built schools whose stated purpose was the creation of a "patriotic and anti-Communist" educational environment, and built roads, bridges, and health clinics. Paramilitary recruiting, weapons storage, communications, propaganda, and medical services were all run out of ACDEGAM headquarters.[21][22]

By the mid-1980s ACDEGAM and MAS had experienced significant growth. In 1985, the powerful drug traffickers

  • IMPUNITY-THE FILM - Film about the AUC
  • Little Voices (Pequeñas Voces) - An animated movie about the vision of children in the war in Colombia.


  • AUC Official Website -- (mirror from [12], in Spanish)
  • Human Rights Watch - Colombia
  • Colombia Journal
  • Alto Comisionado para la Paz (Spanish)
  • Center for International Policy - Colombia Program
  • Colombia -- Third World Traveller
  • BP in Colombia, Sourcewatch
  • Colombia Solidarity Campaign

External links

  • Constanza Vieira (July 11, 2010). "Paramilitaries Don't Want to Take the Blame Alone". Inter Press Service. 
  • Conmigo extraditaron la verdad': Salvatore Mancuso en entrevista exclusiva"'". Cambio (in Spanish). May 2010. 
  • Constanza Vieira (February 4, 2010). "Same Paramilitary Abuses; New Faces, New Names". Inter Press Service. 
  • "Organized crime and the state". Center for International Policy. November 18, 2009. 
  • Gustavo Gómez (September 28, 2008). "Mancuso dio una lucha que hemos debido dar todos los cordobeses". Semana (in Spanish). 
  • Constanza Vieira (April 1, 2008). "Paramilitarism Alive and Well". Inter Press Service. 
  • Bill Conroy (May 18, 2008). "Money Laundering & Murder in Colombia: Official Documents Point to DEA Complicity". Narco News. 
  • Stephen F. Jackson (May 5, 2007). "Paramilitaries and Mining Companies in Colombia". Counterpunch. 
  • Michael Evans (April 16, 2007). Para-politics' Goes Bananas"'".  
  • "Oil-Palm Plantations on Afro-Colombian Lands". Dollars and Sense. July–August 2007.  (Original in Spanish: [11])
  • Steven Ambrus (Spring 2007). "Dominion of Evil". Amnesty Magazine (Amnesty International). 
  • Robert Verkaik (July 22, 2006). "BP pays out millions to Colombian farmers". The Independent. 
  • Constanza Vieira (April 10, 2006). "New Jobs for Paramilitaries". Inter Press Service. 
  • Christian Parenti (6/12/2006). "Colombia’s Deep Divide".  
  • Bill Conroy (January 9, 2006). "Leaked Memo: Corrupt DEA Agents in Colombia Help Narcos and Paramilitaries". Narco News. 
  • Mitchell, Chip (May 2005). "Along for the Ride: Colombia's paramilitaries are getting a pass, with a wink from Washington". The Progressive. 
  • Luis Gómez (June 16, 2003). We Don't Negotiate with Terrorists?": United States Officials Had Brunch with the Colombian Paramilitaries Last Month""". Narco News. 
  • Jeremy Bigwood (April 8, 2003). "Doing the US's Dirty Work: The Colombian Paramilitaries and Israel". Narco News. 
  • Aram Roston (September 2001). "It's the Real Thing: Murder: US firms like Coca Cola are implicated in Colombia's brutality".  
  • Madeline Baran (November–December 2003). "Stop Killer Coke!: Death squads have assassinated eight trade union leaders in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia.". Dollars and Sense Magazine. 
  • Tristan Adie (May–June 2002). "U.S. Escalates Colombia's Dirty War". International Socialist Review (23). 

News / Magazines

  • "Body count mentalities": Colombia’s "False Positives" Scandal, Declassified, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 266, National Security Archive, January 7, 2009
  • Paramilitaries as Proxies: Declassified evidence on the Colombian army's anti-guerrilla "allies", National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 166, National Security Archive, October 16, 2005
  • Documents Implicate Colombian Government in Chiquita Terror Scandal: Company's Paramilitary Payoffs made through Military's 'Convivir', National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 217, National Security Archive, March 29, 2007 (see also: [9][10])
  • The Truth about Triple-A: U.S. Document Implicates Current, Former Colombian Army Commanders in Terror Operation, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 223, National Security Archive, July 1, 2007
  • Colombian Paramilitaries and the United States: "Unraveling the Pepes Tangled Web", National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 243, National Security Archive, February 17, 2008
  • Conspiracy of Silence?: Colombia, the United States and the Massacre at El Salado, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 287, National Security Archive, September 24, 2009
  • The United States vs. Rito Alejo del Río: Ambassador Cited Accused Colombian General's Reliance on Death Squads, "Systematic" Support of Paramilitaries "Pivotal to his Military Success", National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 327, National Security Archive, September 29, 2010
  • Trujillo Declassified: Documenting Colombia's 'tragedy without end', National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 259, National Security Archive, October 5, 2008
  • Volume III: Conditioning Security Assistance in War in Colombia: Guerrillas, Drugs and Human Rights in U.S. Colombia Policy, 1988-2002: National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 69, National Security Archive, May 3, 2002
  • Kim Cragan, Bruce Hoffman; "Arms Trafficking and Colombia". RAND Corporation, 2003
  • The Ties That Bind: Colombia and Military-Paramilitary Links, Human Rights Watch, February 2000
  • The "Sixth Division": Military-paramilitary Ties and U.S. Policy in Colombia, Human Rights Watch, September 2001
  • Breaking the Grip?: Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia, Human Rights Watch, November 17, 2008
  • Paramilitaries’ Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia, Human Rights Watch, February 2010
  • Colombia: Fear and Intimidation: The dangers of human rights work , Amnesty International, September 2006
  • Colombia: The Paramilitaries in Medellín: Demobilization or Legalization?, Amnesty International, August 31, 2005
  • Amnesty International, "Colombia: Barrancabermeja: A city under siege", 1 May 1999
  • "The Other Half of the Truth: Searching for Truth, Justice, and Reparations for Colombia's Victims of Paramilitary Violence", Latin American Working Group, June 2008
  • "The Wrong Road", Latin American Working Group, July 2003
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - Colombia 2005 Report (Spanish and English)

Government/NGO Reports

  • Winifred Tate (2001). "Paramilitaries in Colombia" (PDF). Brown Journal of World Affairs (Brown University) 8 (PART 1): 163–176. Retrieved August 21, 2010. 
  • Jennifer S. Easterday (2009). "Deciding the fate of complementarity: a Colombian case study" (PDF). Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law 26 (1). Retrieved August 21, 2010. 
  • Novelli, Mario (2010). "Education, conflict and social (in)justice: insights from Colombia". Educational Review 62 (3): 271–285.  
  • Nazih Richani (Autumn 2005). "Multinational Corporations, Rentier Capitalism, and the War System in Colombia". Latin American Politics and Society 47 (3): 113–144.  
  • Olga Martin-Ortega (2008). "Deadly Ventures? Multinational Corporations and Paramilitaries in Colombia" (PDF). Revista Electrónica de Estudios Internacionales 16. 
  • Sam Goffman (September–October 2005). "Colombia: Paramilitaries Get Sweetheart Deal". NACLA Report on the Americas 39 (2): 50–51. 
  • "Coercion Incorporated: Paramilitary Colombia". NACLA Report on the Americas 42 (4): 11. July–August 2009. 
  • Nazih Richani (September–October 2000). "the Paramilitary Connection". NACLA Report on the Americas 34 (2): 38. 
  • Jasmin Hristov (July–August 2009). "Legalizing the Illegal: Paramilitarism in Colombia's 'Post-Paramilitary' Era". NACLA Report on the Americas 42 (4): 12–39. 
  • Gary Leech (September–October 2004). "U.S./Colombia: Demobilizing the AUC?". NACLA Report on the Americas 38 (2): 42–44. 
  • Marc Chernick (March–April 1998). "The paramilitarization of the war in Colombia". NACLA Report on the Americas 31 (5): 28. 
  • Anastasia Moloney (September–October 2004). "Displaced in Colombia". NACLA Report on the Americas 38 (2): 9–12. 
  • Lesley Gill (July–August 2009). "Durable Disorder: Parapolitics in Barrancabermeja". NACLA Report on the Americas 42 (4): 20–39. 
  • Hanson, Heather; Penna, Rogers Romero (May–June 2005). "The Failure of Colombia's "Democratic Security"". NACLA Report on the Americas 38 (6): 22–41. 
  • Forrest Hylton (May–June 2006). "Politics as Organized Crime in Colombia?". NACLA Report on the Americas 39 (6): 4–38. 
  • Nazih Richani (2007). "Caudillos and the Crisis of the Colombian State: fragmented sovereignty, the war system and the privatisation of counterinsurgency in Colombia". Third World Quarterly 28 (2): 403–417.  
  • Vanda Felbab-Brown (2005). "The Coca Connection: Conflict and Drugs in Colombia and Peru". Journal of Conflict Studies 25 (2). Retrieved August 26, 2010. 

Journal articles

  • Aviva Chomsky; Francisco Ramírez Cuellar (2005). The Profits of Extermination: How U.S. Corporate Power is Destroying Colombia. Common Courage Press.  
  • Steven Dudley (January 2004). Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia. Routledge.  
  • Duzan, Maria Jimena; Peter Eisner (translator) (1994). Death Beat: A Colombian Journalist's Life Inside the Cocaine Wars. Harper Collins.  
  • Alejandro García (2009). Los crímenes de estado y su gestión. Dos experiencias postraumáticas y una aproximación a la Justicia Penal Internacional. Investigación y debate (in Spanish) 33. CYAN.  
  • Jennifer S. Holmes; Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres; Kevin M. Curtin (2008). Guns, drugs, and development in Colombia. University of Texas Press.  
  • Jasmin Hristov (2009). Blood and capital : the paramilitarization of Colombia.  
  • Harvey F. Kline (2007). Chronicle of a failure foretold: the peace process of Colombian president Andrés Pastrana. University of Alabama Press.  
  • Leech, Garry (2002). Killing Peace: Colombia's Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention. Information Network of the Americas (INOTA).  
  • Mario A. Murillo; Jesús Rey Avirama (2004). Colombia and the United States: war, unrest, and destabilization. Seven Stories Press. pp. 86–104.  
  • Pardo Rueda, Rafael (2004). La Historia de las Guerras (in Spanish). Ediciones B-Vergara.  
  • Pastrana, Andrés (2005). La Palabra Bajo Fuego (in Spanish). Editorial Planeta. 
  • Alberto Ramírez Santos, ed. (2002). Las Verdaderas Intenciones de los Paramilitares (in Spanish). Intermedio Editores. 
  • Mauricio Romero (2003). "Paramilitary Groups in Contemporary Colombia". In Diane Davis; Anthony Pereira. Irregular Armies and Their Role in Politics and State Formation. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Mauricio Romero, León Valencia, Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris (2007). Mauricio Romero, ed. Parapolítica: la ruta de la expansión paramilitar y los acuerdos políticos (in Spanish). Intermedio Editores.  
  • Bert Ruiz (October 1, 2001). The Colombian Civil War. McFarland & Company.  
  • Rebeca Toledo; Teresa Gutierrez; Sara Flounders; Andy McInerney, eds. (2003). War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A.  
  • Brenda K. Uekert (1995). Rivers of blood: a comparative study of government massacres. Greenwood Publishing Group.  


Further reading

  • Avilés, William (2006a). Global Capitalism, Democracy, and Civil-Military Relations in Colombia. SUNY Press.  
  • Brittain, James J. (2010). Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia: The Origin and Direction of the FARC-EP. Pluto Press.  
  • Hristov, Jasmin (2009). Blood and capital: the paramilitarization of Colombia. Ohio University Press.  
  • HRW (1996); Colombia's Killer Networks: The Military-Paramilitary Partnership and the United States, Human Rights Watch (Also in Spanish here)
  • HRW (Sept. 2001); The "Sixth Division": Military-paramilitary Ties and U.S. Policy in Colombia, Human Rights Watch
  • Kirk, Robin (2003). More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, drugs, and America's war in Colombia. Public Affairs. pp. 149–151.  
  • Livingstone, Grace (2004). Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War. Rutgers University Press.  
  • Nussio, Enzo (2011). "Learning from Shortcomings – the Demobilization of Paramilitaries in Colombia". Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 6 (2): 88–92.  
  • Rempe, Dennis M. (Winter 1995). "Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: U.S. Counter-insurgency Efforts in Colombia 1959-1965". Small Wars and Insurgencies 6 (3): 304–327.  
  • Richani, Nazih (2002). Systems of Violence: the political economy of war and peace in Colombia. SUNY Press. 
  • Romero, Mauricio (2003). Paramilitares y autodefensas. 1982-2003 (in Spanish). IEPRI - Planeta. 
  • Scott, Peter Dale (2003). Drugs, oil, and war: the United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina. Rowman and Littlefield.  
  • Stokes, Doug (2005). America's Other War: Terrorizing Colombia. Zed Books.  
  • Tate, Winifred (2001). "Paramilitaries in Colombia" (PDF). Brown Journal of World Affairs (Brown University) 8 (Part 1). 


  1. ^ Rempe, Dennis M. (Winter 1995). "Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: US Counter-insurgency Efforts in Colombia 1959–1965". Small Wars and Insurgencies 6 (3): pp. 304–327.  
  2. ^ a b Rempe, 1995
  3. ^ Livingstone, 2004: p. 155
  4. ^ Visit to Colombia, South America, by a Team from Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Warfare School, 26 Feb. 1962, Kennedy Library, Box 319, National Security Files, Special Group; Fort Bragg Team; Visit to Colombia; 3/62, "Secret Supplement, Colombian Survey Report."
  5. ^ Noam Chomsky (2000). Rogue states: the rule of force in world affairs. South End Press. p. 69.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k HRW, 1996: "II. History of the Military-Paramilitary Partnership"
  7. ^ Stokes, 2005: pp. 71-72
  8. ^ Stokes, 2005: p. 74
  9. ^ a b c d Brittain, 2010: pp. 116–119
  10. ^ Richani, 2002: pp. 104-105
  11. ^ a b Colombia: The Paramilitaries in Medellín: Demobilization or Legalization?, Amnesty International, August 31, 2005, pp. 3-4
  12. ^ U.S. Ambassador Diego Asencio (February 1979). "Document number: 1979Bogota01410". United States Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. 
  13. ^ Michael Evans (2007-07-01). "The Truth about Triple-A". National Security Archive. 
  14. ^ Schulte-Bockholt, Alfredo (2006). The Politics of Organized Crime and the Organized Crime of Politics: a study in criminal power. Lexington. p. 95. 
  15. ^ a b c Marc Chernick (March–April 1998). "The paramilitarization of the war in Colombia". NACLA Report on the Americas 31 (5): 28. 
  16. ^ Brittain, 2010: pp. 129–131
  17. ^ a b Forrest Hylton (2006). Evil Hour in Colombia. Verso. pp. 68–69.  
  18. ^ Richani, 2002: p.38
  19. ^ a b Hristov, 2009: pp. 65-68
  20. ^ Santina, Peter "Army of terror", Harvard International Review, Winter 1998/1999, Vol. 21, Issue 1
  21. ^ a b c d  
  22. ^ a b Pearce, Jenny (May 1, 1990). 1st. ed. Colombia:Inside the Labyrinth. London: Latin America Bureau. p. 247. ISBN 0-906156-44-0
  23. ^ Democracy Now!, Who Is Israel's Yair Klein and What Was He Doing in Colombia and Sierra Leone?, June 1, 2000.
  24. ^ Harvey F. Kline (1999). State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia: 1986-1994. University of Alabama Press. pp. 73–74. 
  25. ^ Colombian Security Alleges Mercenary Aid to Cartels. August 29, 1989, Washington Post Foreign Service
  26. ^ "Alias Ernesto Báez, a un paso de la justicia ordinaria". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  27. ^ "La huella nazi". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  28. ^ MORENA" SE DESTAPA""". 11 September 1989. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  29. ^ "MOVIMIENTO ANTICOMUNISTA". Archived from the original on 7 January 2005. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  30. ^ a b c Kirk, 2003: pp. 149-151
  31. ^ Robert Neville (2001). The human condition. SUNY Press. p. 107.  
  32. ^ Livingstone, 2004: pp. 197-198
  33. ^ Alma Guillermoprieto (2007). Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America. Random House, Inc. p. 26.  
  34. ^ a b Romero, 2003: pp. 137-143
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Human Rights Watch, War Without Quarter: Colombia and International Humanitarian Law, (en español aquí) , 1 October 1998, 187-7, (accessed 23 August 2010)
  36. ^ Romero, 2003: pp. 145–149
  37. ^ a b Romero, 2003: pp. 149–151
  38. ^ Nazih Richani (September–October 2000). "the Paramilitary Connection". NACLA Report on the Americas 34 (2): 38–41. 
  39. ^ a b c d William Avilés (May 2006). "Paramilitarism and Colombia's Low-Intensity Democracy". Journal of Latin American Studies 38 (2): 392–393. 
  40. ^ a b c d Juan E. Méndez (1990). The "Drug war" in Colombia: the neglected tragedy of political violence. Human Rights Watch. pp. 13–16.  
  41. ^ Javier Giraldo (1996). Colombia: the genocidal democracy. Common Courage Press. p. 94.  
  42. ^ Washington Office on Latin America, Colombia Besieged : Political Violence and State Responsibility (Washington, DC, 1989), p. 82
  43. ^ a b c d HRW, 1996: "III: The Intelligence Reorganization"
  44. ^ a b HRW, 1996: "Appendix A: Colombian Armed Forces Directive No. 200-05/91"
  45. ^ HRW, 1996: "Conclusions and Recommendations"
  46. ^ Livingstone, 2004: p. 159
  47. ^ a b Colombian Paramilitaries and the United States: "Unraveling the Pepes Tangled Web", National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 243, National Security Archive, February 17, 2008
  48. ^ "Pacto con el diablo". Semana (in Spanish). February 16, 2008. 
  49. ^ Scott, 2003: p. 88
  50. ^ Kirk, 2003: pp. 156–158
  51. ^ Mark Bowden. Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw. Grove Atlantic Press. p. 239.  
  52. ^ Peter Santina; "Army of terror.", Harvard International Review Winter 1998/1999, Vol. 21, Issue 1
  53. ^ David C. Jordan (1999). Drug politics: dirty money and democracies. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 160.  
  54. ^ Sewall H. Menzel (2000). Cocaine Quagmire: Implementing the U.S. Anti-Drug Policy in the North Andes-Colombia. University Press of America. pp. 150–151.  
  55. ^ Alfredo Rangel, Yezid Arteta, Carlos Lozano y Medófilo Medina (2008). Qué, cómo y cúando negociar con las FARC (in Español). Intermedio. pp. 222–225. 
  56. ^ a b c d Colombia: The Paramilitaries in Medellín: Demobilization or Legalization?, Amnesty International, August 31, 2005, pp. 8-9
  57. ^ a b Documents Implicate Colombian Government in Chiquita Terror Scandal: Company's Paramilitary Payoffs made through Military's 'Convivir', National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 217, National Security Archive, March 29, 2007 (see also: [7][8])
  58. ^ a b Avilés, 2006a: pp. 119;135
  59. ^ a b (Spanish)Tercer Informe Sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en Colombia, Capítulo IV continuado 5. Violencia y la Violación del Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos y el Derecho Internacional Humanitario, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, February 26, 1999
  60. ^ Richani, 2002: p. 52
  61. ^ Robert Neville (2001). The human condition. SUNY Press. p. 52.  
  62. ^ Romero, 2003: p. 104
  63. ^ Colombia - The Human Rights Situation Human Rights Watch (Spanish)
  64. ^ Hristov, 2009: p. 70
  65. ^ Jo-Marie Burt; Philip Mauceri (2004). Politics in the Andes: identity, conflict, reform. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 156.  
  66. ^ The corridor of the bloody dispute BBC News Mundo
  67. ^ HRW, Sept. 2001: "II. A Pattern of Support"
  68. ^ a b c d e f Human Rights Watch, "II. The Successor Groups: A Predictable Outcome of a Flawed Demobilization", Paramilitaries’ Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia, February 2010
  69. ^ a b Sam Goffman (September–October 2005). "Colombia: Paramilitaries Get Sweetheart Deal". NACLA Report on the Americas 39 (2): 50–51. 
  70. ^ Garry Leech (May 17, 2007). "The Best-Laid Plans of Presidents and War Criminals: The Unintended Outcome of Colombia’s Demobilization Process". Colombia Journal. 
  71. ^ Nussio, Enzo. 2011. " Learning from Shortcomings – the Demobilization of Paramilitaries in Colombia." Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 6 (2): 88-92.
  72. ^ a b c Colombia: Fear and Intimidation: The dangers of human rights work , Amnesty International, September 2006
  73. ^ United Nations, Colombia takes steps on killings but security forces still culpable – UN expert, UN News Centre, May 27, 2010
  74. ^ International Crisis Group. "", 11 December 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  75. ^ Nussio, Enzo. 2012. " La vida después de la desmovilización. Percepciones, emociones y estrategias de exparamilitares en Colombia." Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes.
  76. ^ Nussio,Enzo. 2011. " How ex-combatants talk about personal security. Narratives of former paramilitaries in Colombia." Conflict, Security & Development 11 (5): 579-606.
  77. ^ a b c Felbab-Brown, Vanda "After the Presidential Elections: The Challenges Ahead in Colombia", The Brookings Institution, 6 July 2010
  78. ^ a b c d e Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2011: Colombia", World Report 2011, January 2011
  79. ^ a b c d Human Rights Watch, "III. The Rise and Growth of the Successor Groups", Paramilitaries’ Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia, February 2010
  80. ^ Heather Walsh. "Gold Eclipses Cocaine as Rebels Tap Colombian Mining Wealth". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  81. ^ a b Scott, 2003: p. 81
  82. ^ DeRouen, 2007: p. 14
  83. ^ "Colombia: Human Rights Watch testifies before US Senate". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  84. ^ El Norte de Castilla. "Preocupacin en Colombia por nuevas bandas de ex paramilitares". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^ "Más de mil militares y policías colombianos en nexos con el narco". Excélsior. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  88. ^ "Las Bacrim se extienden a territorio venezolano". ElEspectador. Archived from the original on 6 June 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  89. ^ a b Human Rights Watch, "IV. The Successor Groups’ Human Rights and Humanitarian Impact", Paramilitaries’ Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia, February 2010
  90. ^ Constanza Vieira (August 27, 2008). "International Criminal Court Scrutinises Paramilitary Crimes". Inter Press Service. 
  91. ^ Human Rights Watch World Report 1999.  
  92. ^ Tate, 2001: p. 168
  93. ^ a b Kirk, 2003: p. 144
  94. ^ a b Brittain, 2010: pp. 132–135
  95. ^ William Avilés (May 2006). "Paramilitarism and Colombia's Low-Intensity Democracy". Journal of Latin American Studies 38 (2): 380. 
  96. ^ "Through a New Lens: A Child Sensitive Approach to Transitional Justice". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  97. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Colombia". U.S. State Department, February 25, 2000
  98. ^ a b Mapiripan: A Shortcut to Hell, Center for Public Integrity
  99. ^ a b Colombian President Pastrana Visits Washington This Week, Human Rights Watch
  100. ^ Jo-Marie Burt, The Massacre at Mapiripán, Colombia Journal, April 3, 2000
  101. ^ a b c d e Liam Craig-Best; Rowan Shingler, The Alto Naya Massacre: Another Paramilitary Outrage, Colombia Journal, May 21, 2001
  102. ^ a b Hristov, 2009: p. 191
  103. ^ a b HRW, Sept. 2001: "2.3. Villa and Cauca (Third Brigade)"
  104. ^ a b Patricia Dahl, The Massacre at Alto Naya, Colombia Journal, February 23, 2004
  105. ^ Scott Wilson, "Colombian Massacre Large, Brutal: Chain Saws Used By Paramilitaries In Village Killing", Washington Post, April 21, 2001
  106. ^ Eric Fichtl, The Massacre at Betoyes Colombia Journal, August 4, 2003
  107. ^ Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), "Colombia: Government "Peace Process Cements Injustice for IDPs", 30 June 2006, (accessed 23 August 2010), p. 4
  108. ^ Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), "Profile of Internal Displacement: Colombia", 26 May 2005, (accessed 23 August 2010)
  109. ^ a b Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), "Profile of Internal Displacement: Colombia", 26 May 2005, (accessed 23 August 2010), p. 36, 39
  110. ^ a b Hristov, 2009: p. 76
  111. ^ Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), "Colombia: Government "Peace Process Cements Injustice for IDPs", 30 June 2006, (accessed 23 August 2010), p. 32
  112. ^ Michael Taussig (2004). Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of limpieza in Colombia. New Press. 
  113. ^ Elizabeth F. Schwartz (Winter 1995–1996). "Getting Away with Murder: Social Cleansing in Colombia and the Role of the United States". The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 27 (2): 381–420. 
  114. ^ Lovisa Stannow (1996) "Social cleansing" in Colombia, MA Thesis, Simon Fraser University
  115. ^ Alfredo Molano (2005). The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the desterrados of Colombia. Haymarket. p. 113. 
  116. ^ Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, "Colombia: Activities of a Colombian social cleansing group known as 'Jóvenes del Bien' and any state efforts to deal with it" , 2 April 2004
  117. ^ Schwartz, op cit., pp. 387-388
  118. ^ Vanda Felbab-Brown (2010). Shooting up: counterinsurgency and the war on drugs. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 95–96.  
  119. ^ Michael Evans (April 16, 2007). Para-politics' Goes Bananas"'".  
  120. ^ Garry Leech (March 19, 2007). "Slap on the Wrist for Corporate Sponsors of Terrorism". Colombia Journal. 
  121. ^ Chiquita's Board Members: Total Identification Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawers' Collective
  122. ^ a b Hristov, 2009: p. 78
  123. ^ Gray, Kevin (October 2007). "The Banana War". International News. Retrieved October 7, 2011. 
  124. ^ Demócrata Delahunt: Caso Chiquita Brands en Colombia es punta del iceberg, Telesur
  125. ^ Leech, 2009: p. 194
  126. ^ Chomsky, Aviva (2008). Linked labor histories: New England, Colombia, and the making of a global working class. Duke University Press. p. 278.  
  127. ^ Chomsky, Aviva (2008). Linked labor histories: New England, Colombia, and the making of a global working class. Duke University Press. pp. 278–279.  
  128. ^ Aram Roston (September 2001). "It's the Real Thing: Murder: US firms like Coca Cola are implicated in Colombia's brutality".  
  129. ^ Madeline Baran (November–December 2003). "Stop Killer Coke!: Death squads have assassinated eight trade union leaders in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia.". Dollars and Sense Magazine. 



See also

Political activities

In July 2001 four lawsuits were filed against The Coca-Cola Company by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the United Steel Workers of America, on behalf of Sinaltrainal (a union representing food and beverage workers in Colombia), five individuals who have been tortured or unlawfully detained for union activities, and the estate of murdered union activist Isidro Gil. The plaintiffs alleged that Coca-Cola bottlers "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained, or otherwise silenced trade union leaders." Coca-Cola does not deny that the murders and attacks on unionists took place at their bottling facilities, nor did they deny that the paramilitaries responsible for the killings were being paid by the bottlers, but they claimed that they could not be held liable because they are not in direct control of the bottling plants. In March 2001, a district judge in Miami decided that Coca-Cola could not be held liable, claiming they did not directly control the bottling plants, but allowed the case against the bottling companies to proceed forward.[128][129]

The Coca-Cola Company

Since it started operating in the early 1990s, Drummond's 215-mile railway has been repeatedly attacked by the FARC-EP.[126] There is evidence that right-wing paramilitaries were hired by Drummond to guard the rail lines.[122] In 2001, union activists working at Drummond's Colombian operations began receiving frequent death threats. In February of that year, AUC paramilitaries broke into the home of union organizer Cándido Méndez and killed him in front of his family. This was followed by a series of killings in March.[127]

In the late 1980s, Alabama-based Drummond Coal began to expand into new markets, due to the deregulation of global capital. As part of this expansion, they purchased the Pribbenow coal mine in Colombia, as well as a Caribbean port to ship the coal. They increased production at the mine by 20 million tons annually, turning it into one of the largest coal-mining operations in the world. It made up the largest share of Drummond's $1.7 billion in annual revenues.[125]

Drummond Coal

US congress member William Delahunt stated Chiquita Brands was only the "tip of the iceberg" in the financing of the AUC, after he met with paramilitary chiefs Salvatore Mancuso, Diego Fernando Murillo, Héctor Veloza and Rodrigo Tovar Pupo. Delahunt stressed: "I am concerned by the magnitude of the participation of the US companies."[124]

From 1997 to 2004, [57][119][120][121][122] The plea deal was negotiated by Eric Holder, who was then an attorney with the law firm Covington & Burling, which represented Chiquita Brands.[123]

Chiquita Brands International

Financing by U.S. corporations

In 2001 Colombian government sources estimated that at least 40% of all cocaine exports from Colombia were controlled by far-right paramilitary groups, while only 2.5% were controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.[81]

The downfall of the Medellín and Cali Cartels in the 1990s created an opening for paramilitary groups, which controlled northern Colombia (the key transnational smuggling route), to take over the international cocaine trade.[118]

Drug trade


Paramilitary groups, often with the support of local merchants, the Colombian military, and local police, have engaged in extensive "social cleansing" operations against homeless people, drug addicts, orphaned children, and other people they deem socially "undesirable".[112][113][114][115][116] In 1993 alone, at least 2190 street children were murdered, many of whom were killed by agents of the state. An estimated 5 people per day fell victim to social cleansing operations in 1995.[117]

Social cleansing

Paramilitary groups have been held responsible for the largest portion of displacement.[109][110] In the years 2000 and 2001, paramilitaries were blamed for 48 percent and 53 percent of forced displacement, respectively.[109] The displacement is not only a side-effect of the civil conflict but also a deliberate policy to remove people from their territories, so that the land can be taken by wealthy elites, multinational corporations and criminal syndicates, as well as to attack the civilian support base for the guerrillas.[110][111]

More than 5 million people out of Colombia's population of approximately 40 million have been internally displaced since 1985, making it the country with the second highest internally displaced population in the world after Sudan. Over 3 million people have been displaced after President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, with over 300,000 displaced in 2005 alone.[107][108]

Displaced Embera-Catios Indian girl in Cazuca near Bogota, Colombia. Paramilitary violence is responsible for most of the displacement in the country's ongoing conflict.

Forcible displacement

Another massacre took place in Betoyes, Arauca department in early May 2003. Several people belonging to the indigenous Guahibo community were killed and over 300 people fled. Three girls, ages 11, 12, and 15, were raped. Another 16-year-old pregnant mother, Omaira Fernández was raped, and then they cut her womb open and ripped out the fetus which they hacked up with a machete. They then dumped the bodies into the river. An Amnesty International reported on June 4, 2003 that the Colombian army's 18th Brigade's "Navos Pardo Battalion" fully supported the AUC in carrying out the massacre. "... in Betoyes in January 2003, witnesses said that the AUC armband of one attacker slipped to reveal the words "Navos Pardo Battalion" printed on the uniform beneath."[106]

The Betoyes Massacre

Despite repeated warnings over the preceding two weeks that such an attack was about to occur, the Colombian military refused to provide protection for the villagers. And although the massacre went on for more than three days, the nearby Third Brigade did not show up until after it was over. Yet when the FARC attempted to take over a town, in neighboring Nariño, the military responded within three hours.[101][102] Some of the villagers traveled to the Colombian Army's Third Brigade an hour away. The Cauca People’s Defender, Victor Javier Melendez, notified the military that a massacre was occurring on the morning of April 13. He received no response.[101] The Colombian Public Advocate's office stated: "it is inexplicable how approximately 500 paramilitaries could carry out an operation of this type without being challenged in any way, especially since the area that these men entered is only twenty minutes from the village of Timba, where a base operated by the Colombian Army is located and has been staffed since March 30 of this year."[103]

The first victim was a 17-year-old girl named Gladys Ipia whose head and hands were cut off with a chain saw. Next, six people were shot while eating at a local restaurant. Another man was chopped into pieces and burned. A woman had her abdomen ripped open with a chainsaw. An indigenous leader named Cayetano Cruz, was cut in half with a chainsaw.[101][103][104] The paramilitaries lined up the villagers in the middle of the town, and asked people if they knew any guerrillas. If they answered "no", they were hacked to death with machetes.[105] Many of the bodies were dismembered, and strewn piecemeal around the area, making it difficult to gain an accurate body count and identify victims. Between 4,000 and 6,000 people were displaced as they fled the area during and following the violence.[101][104]

Another massacre took place at Alto Naya, Cauca department on April 12, 2001, in which an estimated 40-130 civilians were killed, and thousands displaced. Approximately 100 paramilitaries from the Frente Calima ("Calima Front") participated in the killings.[101][102]

The Alto Naya massacre

The local judge of Mapiripan Leonardo Ivan Cortes called the police and the army eight times during the 5-day massacre, but they did not arrive until the AUC paramilitaries had left.[98] In March 1999, Colombian prosecutors accused Colonel Lino Sánchez of planning the massacre with Carlos Castaño. Sánchez was the operations chief of the Colombian Army's 12th Brigade. He has received special training by U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers on Barrancón Island on the Guaviare River. The training was finished very close to the time of the massacre.[100] The evidence showed that the paramilitaries landed unhampered at the San Jose del Guaviare airport which was heavily guarded by military personnel.[99]

Civilians were taken to the town center where they were tortured by paramilitaries before being killed. After torturing their victims, the paramilitaries decapitated people with chainsaws, hung people from meat hooks, hacked people with machetes, cut people's throats and carved their bodies, and then threw their corpses into the nearby Guaviare River.[15][98][99]

In Mapiripán, Meta Department, an estimated 30 people were killed between July 14 to 20 1997. At least 100 heavily armed AUC members arrived in the town searching for people who were suspected leftist guerrilla supporters. They went from house to house referring to a list of names that had been prepared by informants earlier.

The Mapiripan Massacre

Each night they kill groups of five to six defenseless people, who are cruelly and monstrously massacred after being tortured. The screams of humble people are audible, begging for mercy and asking for help.

Judge Leonardo Iván Cortés, Mapiripán, Meta, July 1997[35]
Corpses of young Afro-Colombians (aged between 17 and 23) killed in a paramilitary massacre in Buenaventura, on April 1, 2005, which took twelve lives.

Some of the most widely known are:

Hundreds of massacres have been perpetrated by paramilitary groups in Colombia.


The security forces have tried to improve their human rights image by letting their paramilitary allies commit human rights violations and then denying that the paramilitaries are operating with their acquiescence, support or sometimes direct coordination.[72]

In 2006, Amnesty International reported that:

At times the security forces collaborated with paramilitary groups that committed abuses; in some instances, individual members of the security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups by passing them through roadblocks, sharing intelligence, and providing them with ammunition. Paramilitary forces find a ready support base within the military and police, as well as local civilian elites in many areas.[97]

A 1999 human rights report from the U.S. State Department said:

... where paramilitaries have a pronounced presence, the army fails to move against them and tolerates their activity, including egregious violations of international humanitarian law; provides some paramilitary groups with intelligence used to carry out operations; and in other cases actively promotes and coordinates with paramilitary units, including joint maneuvers in which atrocities are the frequent result. ... In areas where paramilitaries are present, some police officers have been directly implicated in joint army-paramilitary actions or have supplied information to paramilitaries for their death lists. Police have also stood by while paramilitaries selected and killed their victims. On many occasions, police have publicly described whole communities as guerrillas or sympathetic to them and have withdrawn police protection, a violation of their responsibility under Colombian law to protect civilians from harm. Instead of reinforcing the police after guerrilla attacks, police commanders have withdrawn officers, thus encouraging or allowing paramilitaries to move in unimpeded and kill civilians.[35]

Many of these abuses have occurred with the knowledge and support of the Colombian security forces. A 1998 Human Rights Watch report stated:

Paramilitary forces in Colombia have additionally been charged with the illegal recruitment of children into the armed ranks. Though this is an offense punishable by national law, the prosecution rate for these crimes is less than 2% as of 2008.[96]

Paramilitary abuses in Colombia are often classified as atrocities due to the brutality of their methods, including the torture, rape, incineration, decapitation and mutilation with chainsaws or machetes of dozens of their victims at a time, affecting civilians, women and children.[15][93][94]

Paramilitary violence is overwhelmingly targeted towards peasants, unionists, teachers, human rights workers, journalists and leftist political activists.[94][95]

"[The AUC] mutilated bodies with chainsaws. They chained people to burning vehicles. They decapitated and rolled heads like soccer balls. They killed dozens at one time, including women and children. They buried people alive or hung them on meat hooks, carving them ... the victims ... were civilians accused of supporting the guerrillas by supplying them with food, medical supplies, or transportation."

Robin Kirk,[93] Human Rights Watch investigator in Colombia

[92] reported that, in the year 2000, approximately 85% of political murders were committed by the paramilitaries and state forces.Colombian Commission of Jurists The [91] Right-wing paramilitary groups have been blamed for the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia. The

Human rights violations

BACRIMs continue to be involved in the drug trade, commit widespread human rights abuses, engage in forced displacement and undermine democratic legitimacy in other ways, both in collusion with and opposition to FARC-EP guerrillas.[77][78][89] Their targets have included human rights defenders, labor unionists and victims of the former AUC. Members of government security forces have also been accused of tolerating their growth.[78][89]

These successor groups are often made up of mid-level paramilitary commanders and criminal structures that either did not demobilize in the first place or were re-activated after the demobilizations had concluded.[78][79] Many demobilized paramilitaries received recruitment offers, were threatened into joining the new organizations or have simultaneously rearmed and remained in government reintegration programs. New recruits have also come from traditional areas for paramilitary recruitment.[79]

The main emerging criminal and paramilitary organizations are known as The Black Eagles, Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños, Los Paisas, Los Machos, Renacer, Los Gaitanistas,[88] Nueva Generación, Bloque Meta, Libertadores del Vichada, the ERPAC and The Office of Envigado.[79]

Until 2011 Colombia remained the world's largest cocaine producer,[80] and since 2003 Human Rights Watch stated that, according to their Colombian intelligence sources, "40 percent of the country's total cocaine exports" were controlled by this paramilitaries.[81][82][83][84][85] In 2011 an independent investigation made by the Colombian newspaper "El Tiempo" estimated that 50% of all Colombian cocaine was controlled by the same BACRIM groups.[86][87]

New paramilitary groups and related drug trafficking gangs that have continued operating after the AUC demobilization process are referred to as BACRIM (bandas criminales) or criminal gangs by the Colombian government.[77] According to the Colombian National Police, these groups had 3,749 members by July 2010.[78] The NGO Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz has indicated they would have approximately 6,000 armed combatants.[78] Others estimate their ranks may include up to 10,000 people.[77][79]

Post-AUC successor criminal groups

Since 2006, the Office of the High Counselor for Reintegration (ACR) has been in charge of the reintegration policy for demobilized AUC members. The ACR assists ex-combatants with education, vocational training, grants for micro-businesses, psychosocial support, healthcare and a monthly stipend dependent on the ex-combatants’ participation to reintegration activities. Of the 31’671 demobilised members of the AUC, 20’267 were actively participating in the reintegration programme by the end of 2009. The others were either involved in the process of Justice and Peace, imprisoned due to infractions after their demobilisation, dead, or left the programme for unknown reasons.[75][76]

Reintegration of ex-paramilitary fighters

...Demobilisation remained partial, as some stayed outside the process or went on to rearm, strongly contributing to the emergence of successor groups known as New Illegal Armed Groups (NAIGs). Their number has fallen from 32 in 2006 to three, but they still muster some 3,000 members often concentrated in regions with a strong paramilitary legacy such as Uraba, the Eastern Plains, the south-western departments or the Caribbean coast.

A December 2014 International Crisis Group report stated that:

The vast majority of paramilitaries responsible for human rights violations were demobilized without investigation, and many were effectively granted amnesties. Today, the failure in accountability is clear from the dramatic rise in killings by illegal armed groups composed largely of former paramilitaries.[73]

A 2010 United Nations report stated that:

The successor groups, though different in important respects from the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia [...] have taken on many of the same roles, often with some of the same personnel, in some cases with the same counterinsurgency objectives of the AUC [...] It is clear that many paramilitary combatants did in fact go through the demobilization process and abandoned their groups for good. However, there is substantial evidence that many others who participated in the demobilization process were stand-ins rather than paramilitaries, and that portions of the groups remained active. There is also evidence that members of the groups who supposedly demobilized continued engaging in illegal activities.

In February 2010, Human Rights Watch said:[68]

Media reports suggest that over 30,000 paramilitaries have demobilized. However, paramilitaries in supposedly demobilized areas continue to operate, often under new names, and to commit violations. There is also strong evidence of continued links between paramilitaries and the security forces. There were also fears that government policies designed to reintegrate members of illegal armed groups into civilian life risked "recycling" them into the conflict.

In September 2006, Amnesty International said:[72]

Serious flaws during the demobilization phase, such as the Colombian government's failure to interrogate and verify the identities of those involved in the process, allowed many paramilitaries to remain active, form new successor groups and continue to engage in human rights violations.[68]

In 2007 and 2008, paramilitary commanders provided useful information to prosecutors about their activities and associates. However, of some 1,800 individuals who began confessing their crimes to prosecutors in 2005, just 5 had completed their hearings by 2009. A limited number of assets worth an estimated $5 million USD had been surrendered to the official reparations fund, procedures for the return of stolen land to its original owners remained stagnant and paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States mostly ceased collaborating with authorities.[68]

On May 18, 2006 the Constitutional Court of Colombia reviewed Law 975 of 2005, modifying or striking down several of its original articles and correcting some of the problems critics had identified. The revision requires full confessions, turning over illegally acquired assets, provides that reduced sentences may be revoked for lying and removes time limits on investigations. The Court also ruled against the option for paramilitaries to serve their sentences outside of prison or to deduct time spent during negotiations.[68]

The demobilization process was heavily criticized by national and international human rights organizations as well as by international entities,[71] such as the Office of the OAS, citing its non-compliance with international standards on the rights of victims to seek justice and reparation and granting impunity to human rights violators.[72] Colombian Congresswoman Gina Parody claimed that Law 975 gave "benefits to people who have committed the worst crimes"[69]

Under the Colombian government's interpretation of Law 782 of 2002 and Decree 128 of 2003, the majority of the paramilitaries who submitted to the process were pardoned through the cessation of judicial procedures for charges related to their membership in the group. Only 3,700 of the paramilitaries applied for "Justice and Peace" benefits.[68]

In July 2003, the Uribe administration began formal negotiations with the AUC with the stated aim of seeking its demobilization. Law 975 of 2005, also known as the "Justice and Peace" law, was approved by the Colombian Congress and constituted the main legal framework applicable to those paramilitaries who had committed serious crimes.[68] The legislation gave AUC combatants broad concessions, such as allowing paramilitaries to keep profits made from criminal activities during their time in the AUC, limiting sentences to a maximum of 8 years which could be served on private farms instead of in prisons, and not obliging them to dismantle their power structures.[69][70]

2003-2006 demobilization process

As a response, the AUC engaged in a renewed series of massacres and assassinations, often with the passive or active aid of elements of the Colombian government's security forces, according to human rights organizations.[67]

[66] In April 1997, the creation of the


By the end of the decade, there had been a tenfold increase in the number of Colombian paramilitaries.[65]

In November 1997, due to mounting concerns over human rights violations committed by CONVIVIR groups, and the relations between illegal paramilitaries and CONVIVIR, the Constitutional Court of Colombia stated that the issue of military weaponry to civilians and specifically to CONVIVIR groups was unconstitutional,[56] and that CONVIVIR members could no longer be used to gather intelligence information.[35] Many of the CONVIVIR groups simply joined up with the AUC.[56][64]

Amnesty International claims that the CONVIVIR groups committed numerous human rights abuses against civilians, working in coordination with the Colombian government and paramilitaries.[56] In 1998, Human Rights Watch stated that "we have received credible information that indicated that the CONVIVIR groups of the Middle Magdalena and of the southern Cesar regions were directed by known paramilitaries and had threatened to assassinate Colombians that were considered as guerrilla sympathizers or which rejected joining the cooperative groups".[63]

The governor of Antioquia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez -who would later become President of Colombia- was one of the primary proponents of the CONVIVIR program.[57][58] Statistics regarding the exact number of CONVIVIR groups differ and have been considered hard to obtain.[59] Estimates indicate that, by the late 1990s, from 414 to over 500 of these groups had been created, with their membership ranging from 10,000 to 120,000. Uribe's department of Antioquia had some 65 CONVIVIR groups, one of the highest figures in the country.[58][59][60][61][62]

In 1994, Decree 356 of Colombia's Ministry of Defense authorized the creation of legal paramilitary groups known as Servicios especiales de vigilancia y seguriadad privada ("Special vigilance and private security services"), also known as CONVIVIR groups. The CONVIVIR groups were intended to maintain control over high risk areas where guerrillas did not have a strong presence after having been expelled and where there was no need for a large military force or illegal paramilitary presence anymore. Many illegal paramilitary groups transitioned into legal CONVIVIR groups. These CONVIVIR groups worked alongside both the Colombian military and illegal paramilitary groups in counterinsurgency operations.[56]

During the 1990s, the FARC-EP and other guerrilla groups experienced significant growth and achieved a series of military successes against government forces, increasing the amount of territory under their control. The administration of President Ernesto Samper (1994–1998) carried out ineffective operations against the insurgency and attempted to enter into peace negotiations. Colombian military commanders resisted Samper's offer of a demilitarized zone in La Uribe, Meta Department meant to hold these talks. The FARC-EP leadership expressed initial interest in the administration's plan but ultimately refused to accept any preconditions and, in addition, the Samper administration suffered a serious crisis after the scandal concerning the receipt of over $6 million in campaign funding from the Calí drug cartel that had undermined it in the eyes of the guerrillas.[52][53][54][55]


Los Pepes have their torture chambers in Fidel Castaño's house [in Medellín], located ... near the country club ... There they torture trade unionists and lawyers. No one has searched their house or confiscated their assets ... The government offers rewards for the leaders of the Medellín cartel and for the leaders of the guerrillas, but doesn't offer rewards for the leaders of the paramilitaries, nor for those of the Calí cartel, authors of various car bombs in the city of Medellín.[51]

Pablo Escobar complained about how the government targeted the Medellín cartel, but didn't go after paramilitaries or members of the Calí cartel, saying:

[47] Members of both Colombian and U.S. government agencies (including the DEA, CIA and State Department) provided intelligence to the PEPES.[50] The Calí cartel provided $50 million to pay for weapons, informants, and assassins, with the hopes that they could wipe out their primary rival in the cocaine business.[49][48][47][46] In 1992 Pablo Escobar escaped from his luxury prison,

Man killed in Medellín by PEPES


As an example of increased violence and "dirty war" tactics, HRW cited a partnership between the Colombian Navy and the MAS, in Barrancabermeja where: "In partnership with MAS, the navy intelligence network set up in Barrancabermeja adopted as its goal not only the elimination of anyone perceived as supporting the guerrillas, but also members of the political opposition, journalists, trade unionists, and human rights workers, particularly if they investigated or criticized their terror tactics."[43]

HRW stated that while "not all paramilitaries are intimate partners with the military", the existing partnership between paramilitaries and the Colombian military was "a sophisticated mechanism, in part supported by years of advice, training, weaponry, and official silence by the United States, that allows the Colombian military to fight a dirty war and Colombian officialdom to deny it."[45]

Human Rights Watch argued that this situation allowed the Colombian government and military to [43]

Human Rights Watch concluded that these intelligence networks subsequently laid the groundwork for continuing an illegal, covert partnership between the military and paramilitaries. HRW argued that the restructuring process solidified linkages between members of the Colombian military and civilian members of paramilitary groups, by incorporating them into several of the local intelligence networks and by cooperating with their activities. In effect, HRW believed that this further consolidated a "secret network that relied on paramilitaries not only for intelligence, but to carry out murder".[43]

In 1990, the United States formed a team that included representatives of the U.S. Embassy's Military Group, U.S. Southern Command, the DIA, and the CIA in order to give advice on the reshaping of several of the Colombian military's local intelligence networks, ostensibly to aid the Colombian military in "counter-narcotics" efforts.[43] Advice was also solicited from the British and Israeli military intelligence, but the U.S. proposals were ultimately selected by the Colombian military.[44] The result of these meetings was Armed Forces Directive 200-05/91, issued by the Colombian Defense Ministry in May 1991. However, the order itself made no mention of drugs or counter-narcotics operations at all, and instead focused exclusively on creating covert intelligence networks to combat the insurgency.[44]

Armed Forces Directive No. 200-05/91.

In 1989, the administration issued Decree 1194, which outlawed "the armed groups, misnamed paramilitary groups, that have been formed into deathsquads, bands of hired assassins, self-defense groups, or groups that carry out their own justice" after the murder of two judges and ten government investigators at La Rochela, Santander. The decree established criminal penalties for both civilians and members of the armed forces involved in the promotion, financing, training and membership of said groups.[35]

The third, Decree 815 suspended the privilege of the Armed Forces to distribute weapons to armed civilian groups (a power which had been granted under Law 48 in 1968), and required any new armed civilian groups to be approved by the President and Ministers of Defense and Government. However, the government did not outlaw the already existing paramilitary groups, or require that they be certified through the more stringent new standards.[39][40][42]

The second, Decree 814 established a 1,000 anti-paramilitary police force, made up of active-duty officers from the National Police, which was under the command of the Chief of National Police.[40] The police force was mostly assigned to raiding drug laboratories and the offices of drug trafficking organization, rather than confronting the paramilitaries directly.[39]

The first of the decrees, Decree 813, called for the creation of a commission to oversee the government's anti-paramilitary efforts. The commission was to be composed of the Ministers of Government, Justice, and National Defense, along with the chiefs of the Army, National Police, and DAS. The commission was supposed to plan ways to cut down on paramilitary violence and oversee the execution of these plans.[40] However, most of the people in the commission had either openly voiced support for the paramilitaries, or headed agencies with very strong ties to paramilitary groups, and the commission rarely met over the following decade.[39][41]

In 1987, government statistics revealed that paramilitaries had been responsible for more civilian deaths than guerrillas. Two years later, in 1989, the Colombian government under the administration of Virgilio Barco (1986–1990) passed a series of decrees that promised to reduce paramilitary violence.[39][40]

Anti-paramilitary decrees of 1989

In 1994, Carlos took control of Los Tangueros, which officially changed their name to the Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Uraba ("Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá", ACCU). The ACCU began working with regional military forces, such as the Bomboná battalion, to crush the guerrillas, and murder or intimidate anyone suspected of supporting them. The ACCU helped military commanders by providing intelligence regarding local guerrilla activities. The ACCU began networking with other paramilitary groups such as the MAS, and began to take over large areas of northern Colombia, which was the principal transnational shipping point for illegal drugs.[9][38]


After the demobilization, the FARC-EP expanded its activities in Córdoba and clashes between them, a dissident EPL faction and the demobilized guerrillas -some of whom formed armed "popular commands"- led to almost 200 murders of former fighters and continued violence.[35][37] Carlos Castaño has claimed that this was the reason he decided to reactivate his family's private army.[35][37]

In 1990, Fidel Castaño offered to disband his paramilitary forces if the EPL agreed to demobilize. Having previously faced the combined pressure of Los Tangueros and the Colombian military, the guerrillas demobilized over 2,000 of their fighters and founded the Hope, Peace, and Liberty party. Fidel surrendered some weapons to government authorities and created the Fundación por la Paz de Córdoba (Foundation for the Peace of Córdoba), that provided money, land, cattle and other support to hundreds of former EPL combatants. Electoral alliances between the new party, the AD/M19 and local right-wing politicians were established.[35][36]

Foundation for the Peace of Córdoba

[34] By the late 1980s, numerous cattle ranchers in

While Carlos was in Israel, Fidel hired a group of over 100 armed men, which began to terrorize the local populace. The thugs became known as Los Tangueros by the villagers after the name of the Castaño ranch, Las Tangas, where they were based. In 1983, under orders from Fidel, a group of men went through the villages near Segovia, where his father had been held, and killed every man, woman, and child living on the river nearby. They pulled babies out of their mothers arms and shot them, nailing one baby to a plank. They impaled a man on a bamboo pole, and hacked a woman to pieces with a machete. By the time they were done, 22 people were dead.[30][33]

Los Tangueros

As a teenager, Carlos Castaño had done work as an informant for the Colombian army's Bomboná battalion, which had strong links to MAS death squads. He later did work as an assassin for the MAS, and was supplied with weapons by army officers. In 1983, Carlos went to Tel Aviv, Israel where he spent a year taking courses in paramilitary and counterinsurgency tactics.[17][30][32]

Don Jesús had several sons. The oldest of these, Fidel, had accumulated a fortune illegally smuggling emeralds, robbing people, and trafficking cocaine and marijuana. By the 1980s, Fidel had become one of the most powerful mafia capos in the world, and had purchased large tracts of lands in northern Colombia. By 1988, he and his younger brother Carlos purchased over 1.2 million hectares of land in Antioquia, Córdoba, and Chocó.[9][31]

In the late 1970s, the FARC-EP began gathering intelligence on Don Jesús Castaño. A wealthy rancher in Segovia, Antioquia, far-right conservative, and influential local politician, Don Jesús was considered an ideal target for kidnapping. The Don was kidnapped in 1981, and ultimately died while in custody.[9][30]

Carlos Castaño with a group of AUC paramilitaries.

The Castaño family and the ACCU

Critics of the MORENA experiment saw it as an attempt at legitimizing paramilitarism and its abuses, as an extension of ACDEGAM, or as a copycat of El Salvador's ARENA.

By the end of the 1980s, the MAS had a significant presence in 8 of Colombia's 32 departments—Antioquia, Boyacá, Caquetá, Córdoba, Cundinamarca, Meta, Putumayo, and Santander. During this period, a stated goal of the groups was to kill members of the Patriotic Union or any political groups that opposed drug trafficking.[6][21] At the same time, they began to more intensively involve themselves in municipal, regional, and national politics. In August 1989, the Movimiento de Restauración Nacional ("Movement of National Restoration", MORENA) was formed by members of ACDEGAM.[26][27][28][29]


[25] in early 1988.Puerto Boyacá to train teams of assassins at remote training camps in Colombia. Yair Klein, a retired Israeli lieutenant colonel, acknowledged having led a team of instructors in mercenaries British and Israeli (Colombia's Administrative Security Department), between December 1987 and May 1988 Rodríguez hired Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad According to the report by the [24][23][22][21][19][6]

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