Colombia’s largest illegal armed group, the AGC, vows to “design and construct a new country” in an apparent withdrawal from its intent to surrender to justice.
The Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces (AGC) said so in a recently published “coexistence manual,” which laid out the social order imposed on communities living in territories under the group’s control.
The group, which controls approximately a quarter of Colombia’s municipalities, said to impose paramilitary rule “due to the absence of the state in territories that practically have been abandoned by any kind of authority.”
The group appears to have abandoned its expressed desire to demobilize its estimated 7,000 fighters after the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos failed to follow up.
In an apparent attempt to establish itself as an insurgent group, the AGC banned “direct participation” in drug trafficking and obligated its members to respect international humanitarian law.
This could indicate that the group no longer seeks a surrender to justice, but will only agree to demobilize as part of a peace process.
In its coexistence manual, the group said it sought to “design and construct a new country, so that all Colombians can enjoy their rights and freedoms within a framework of respect for life, harmony and social justice.”
People or communities that ignore or oppose the paramilitary rule will receive one warning after which “a drastic sanction will be imposed on behalf on the AGC.”
“We are currently in the progress of fighting state abandonment, incompetence and corruption, contributing to the construction of real and lasting solutions that help find a social balance that will bring us to a real and sustainable peace.”
Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
The document said it sought to promote “the power of the people, which is the origin and legitimization of our existence as actor in the armed conflict.”
The national government has categorically rejected the AGC’s claim it is a party in the armed conflict and has claimed the group an organized crime organization.
The group has carried out a major expansion and has clashed with ELN guerrillas over territorial control on multiple occasions.
Most recently, the group clashed with dissidents of the FARC, the group that demobilized last year.