Neo-paramilitary groups with former armed forces personnel as members were able to infiltrate the state by exploiting their military connections, according to a WikiLeaks cable.
The cable, dated February 13, 2007, and released by El Espectador on Friday, relays how the then-director of the Rural Security Police, General Jesus Gomez Mendez, told a U.S. official that the three main difficulties in dismantling these organizations were topography, money and this state infiltration.
Infiltration, Gomez said, was a particularly serious problem because it meant that the groups could receive information from their contacts in the armed forces about planned operations against them, allowing them to flee.
An anonymous Intel officer said that this network of military collaborators with the gangs stemmed from the fact that many members of these groups were former military personnel who could use their relationships with former colleagues.
The official highlighted events in the Uraba region, in the north of the Antioquia department, where he estimated that nearly 250 of approximately 330 to 340 new members of criminal groups had prior military experience.
These networks of illicit cooperation were apparently complicated further by allegations from ex-AUC leaders that the government had agreed with them to incorporate the paramilitaries’ informant networks with the military’s.
Although DAS and government officials denied this, the anonymous Intel officer confirmed that it was indeed the case and that he had personally incorporated former members of ex-AUC leader alias “El Aleman’s” bloc into his network with the government’s consent. He added that they were providing the government with valuable information on new criminal groups and their operations.
The cable adds significant weight to long-standing allegations of the military’s ties to paramilitary, and now neo-paramilitary, organizations, which are known as “BACRIM,” or emerging criminal groups by the Colombian goverment in an effort to downplay the groups’ ties to the paramilitaries.
It further highlights issues with the government’s interpretation of the threat posed by these new criminal groups, which emerged from the flawed demobilization of the paramilitaries, choosing to see them more as an issue of law enforcement than a problem of national security due to their decentralized structure.
In a report last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned this attitude, arguing that the government had not done enough to combat the rise of these organizations and was too complacent in rooting out corrupt officials who continue to collaborate with the organizations.
Last week, the U.N. added its concerns, stating that links between government officials and neo-paramilitaries are still present and provide the groups with the ability to “corrupt and infiltrate the state.”
In a separate cable released last month, government failures during the demobilization of the AUC were said to have contributed to the rise of neo-paramilitaries.
Friday’s cable reaffirms this, with the U.S. official acknowledging that most of the neo-paramilitary organizations were led at the time by former mid-level AUC commanders and that just under 20% of the group was made up of “demobilized” paramilitaries.