The Organization of American States (OAS) expressed on Wednesday their concern over the terrorizing of Colombia’s population by criminal groups comprised of formerly demobilized paramilitaries, AFP reported Wednesday.
During a meeting which saw the submission of a quarterly report by the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OEA), OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza acknowledged the disappearance of the paramilitary group the AUC as “a political reality,” but highlighted that the OAS is “concerned that the civilian population is still caught in the dynamics imposed by criminal groups post-demobilization.”
Based on the most recent MAPP/OEA report, violence against and displacement of rural populations is said to be highest in Antioquia, Choco, Nariño and Corodba.
“It remains imperative to strengthen the economic and community reintegration of villages, ” that are still faced with these challenges, Insulza added.
The demobilization process of the AUC, carried out from 2003-2006 under the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe, is now widely considered to have failed due to the rearming of several paramilitary fighters after the process or the lack of entrance into it in the first place by large numbers.
In February U.S. cables from 2006, leaked through the website WikiLeaks, highlighted significant failures in the Justice and Peace Law (JPL), the culmination of the demobilization process that was supposed to see all fighters hand over arms and confess to their crimes in exchange for judicial benefits.
Primary among these failures was the government’s lack of offering to low and mid-level fighters of the same benefits being offered to top AUC leaders. Many of these subsequently went on to join neo-paramilitary organizations such as “Aguilas Negras,” “Los Urabeños,” and ERPAC.
An NGO report from March this year suggested that these criminal groups have a presence in nearly a third of Colombia. Justice and Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras has admitted that as a result of this vast presence, the groups could threaten upcoming October elections.
In relation to the demobilization failure, Insulza didn’t point specifically to the JPL but rather noted the economic and psychological problems of reintegrating former fighters into society due to the current unemployment levels in Colombia and the “stigma” attached to being a former paramilitary.
The mandate of the MAPP/OEA was recently extended and will run until the end of the current Juan Manuel Santos administration in 2014.