Colombia will implement a number of far-stretching measures that seek to cut and prevent ties between the state, private enterprises and paramilitary groups if a deal with leftist FARC rebels is reached.
The purpose is to curb the use of illegal armed groups in labor or political disputes, currently perpetrated by a new generation paramilitary groups.
According to the latest accord on security protocols for a post-FARC Colombia, the government vowed to create a number of elite units in both the Government, the National Police and the Prosecutor General’s Office that will be dedicated to combating these groups.
The latest generation of politically active armed groups were formed by dissident paramilitaries of the AUC, the national paramilitary organization that demobilized between 2003 and 2006 when former President Alvaro Uribe was in office.
The latest generation of paramilitary groups have since become the primary threat to rights workers and leftist politicians.
The paramilitaries of paramilitaries
Paramilitary groups of all sorts — the far-left FARC could even be considered a paramilitary group — have existed in Colombia since the before the 1960s.
While long engaged in drug trafficking, what these paramilitary groups have always had in common were their allies in both the private and the public sector, particularly the military.
Their power peeked in the late 1990s and the early 2000s when the AUC had extremely powerful allies in the military, received broad support from the private sector, had dozens of congressmen in the pocket and enjoyed major political influence on all levels of government.
As with the AUC, the new generation of paramilitary groups have ties to political organizations, local economic and political elites, and the military.
In order to combat groups like the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), the Liberators of Vichada and the Meta Bloc, the Colombian state promised to “effectively and integrally intensify actions against criminal organizations responsible for homicides or massacres or those who attack human rights defenders, social or political movements, including criminal organizations who have been named as successors of paramilitarism.”
The intensified actions would also targets neo-paramilitaries’ “support networks” within the military, the private sector and politics.
In order to do this, the government will create a number of bodies that will seek to eliminate ties between the state, the private sector and illegal armed groups for decades.
National Security Guarantee Commission
The National Security Commission will be a government commission in charge of creating and monitoring policies aimed at targeting and preventing existing ties between paramilitary groups and the state.
This commission will also create vetting procedures that seek to prevent the infiltration of state bodies by illegal armed organizations, a phenomenon that became particularly common during the administrations of former presidents at the turn of the century and more so during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010).
The commission will also keep a close eye on private security companies that in the past have gone from legal security enterprises to illegal paramilitary groups.
Additionally, the body will create a framework for the possible future voluntary demobilization of illegal armed groups after previous attempts were only partially successful in the effective dismantling of these organizations.
Special Counter-Paramilitary Investigation Unit
The Special Investigation Unit will become an elite unit within the Prosecutor General’s Office that is dedicated to the identification and prosecution of members and commanders of neo-paramilitary groups and their allies in the military and politics.
Rather than contributing evidence to the Transitional Justice Tribunal, this unit will be an addition to the existing Justice and Peace tribunals set up after the demobilization of the AUC.
This means that those either in or working with neo-paramilitary groups can not count on the judicial benefits granted to former guerrillas, politicians, businessmen and members of the military tried before the post-FARC tribunal.
The unit will provide information to their colleagues at the Transitional Justice Tribunal in relevant cases.
National Police Counter-Paramilitary Elite Force
The National Police will have an elite force to give prosecutors a rapid response unit in case this is necessary.
Policemen who want to enter this elite unit will be scrutinized to prevent infiltrators or other types of corruption.
Combating ancient paramilitary practices
The created unit will face the tremendous task of unraveling the ties between current groups and their allies in the private and public sector that have existed longer than the FARC itself.
The reduction of the AUC successor groups’ political power that has long been fueled by drug trafficking and it still persists.
This year alone, dozens of government officials were arrested for either helping or being a member of AUC successor groups.
According to a report released by a British NGO earlier this year, 534 rights workers were killed in the past five years, 300 of them were peace activists.