Police revealed Friday that at least six different criminal organizations with a combined total of 3,700 members, some of them former paramilitaries, are currently operating in Colombia.
Police General Jose Roberto Leon said at a press conference that despite the official fight to stop such illegal groups, which are mainly involved in the drug trade, the number of armed gang members rose from 2,000 in January 2009 to about 3,700 by the end of the year.
In a report by Terra, Leon attributed this growth to the restructuring and merging of, and new recruitment into, the sixteen different criminal organizations that authorities registered as active in Colombia in January 2009 – which the police claim to have reduced to six by the start of 2010.
Leon further said that although authorities lack a precise figure regarding how many of the 3,700 men were members of former paramilitary groups (who ostensibly demobilized in negotiations with the government in 2003) it is estimated that between 12% and 13% are ex-members of paramilitary death squads.
The general named the six prominent groups as “Uraba,” “Los Paisas,” “Los Rastrojos,” “Los Machos,” “Renacer,” and “The Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia,” and expressed the police force’s belief that these organisations operate across 169 towns in eighteen departments in the country.
The general’s concluded his report by highlighting the fact that in 2009 seventeen policemen were killed and 68 wounded while on active service in the fight against criminal activity in Colombia.