Colombia vows to indict companies accused of funding death squads

Colombia’s chief prosecutor on Thursday promised results of more than 16,000 criminal investigations into the country’s private sector’s ties to illegal armed groups.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) heard victims of paramilitary groups, many of which were formed and funded by ranchers and corporations.

The phenomenon of using paramilitary death squads for profit has become known as “para-economics.”

Thousands of ranchers, miners, farming companies and corporations were never taken to court four decades after the first paramilitary groups formed.

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“Almost all of the presumed perpetrators in this criminal chain remain unpunished,” victims rights defenders reportedly told the IACHR.

According to the social leaders, Colombia’s justice system has failed to “respond to the court orders and investigations that have emerged from already implemented transitional justice” systems.

Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said this is about to change.

“From now on you will begin seeing the results of the 29 macro-investigations we have virtually completed,” the chief prosecutor told press.

Martinez said his office has a backlog of 16,407 court orders to investigate ties between illegal armed groups, the private sector and state officials.

The prosecution said in 2015 that 12,000 businessmen were being investigated for their ties to illegal armed groups. Martinez said the ongoing investigations implicate 1,017 private sector parties and 2,300 state officials.

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Among the businesses that have been accused of supporting death squads are mayor companies including the country’s largest soft drink producer, Postobon, and Cementos Argos, the country’s largest cement company.

Paramilitary groups emerged in Colombia in the 1980s to protect the business interests of drug traffickers, legal businesses and politicians from left-wing guerrilla attacks.

These groups, however, imposed a reign of terror by assassinating and disappearing tens of thousands of civilians, which spurred the United States to declare paramilitary umbrella organization AUC a foreign terrorist organization in 2002.

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