NGO International Crisis Group calls on Colombian President-elect Santos to “acknowledge that Colombia has still not reached the postconflict phase” and to form an “integrated” strategy to tackle illegal armed groups.
In a briefing titled “Improving security policy in Colombia,” released Tuesday, the NGO warns that despite security advances made under President Alvaro Uribe, serious threats remain in the form of illegal armed groups.
International Crisis Group highlights the threat posed by the FARC, saying that although its military capacity has been much reduced, the guerrilla group still has a functional command structure. The FARC poses new challenges to the government by adopting guerrilla tactics and forming alliances with armed groups, including the “paramilitary successors” – groups which have taken over the criminal networks of paramilitary groups, which were inadequately demobilized.
Santos must form an “integrated conflict resolution strategy” to tackle the country’s various armed groups, the briefing says. “Security consolidation can only take root if Colombia tackles its pervasive problems of organised violence, criminality and illegality in an integrated manner.”
Colombian security forces lack a strategy to confront the more nebulous threat posed by these new alliances which is “of a different, less structured and less visible kind” than that posed by the FARC when Uribe came to power.
The briefing’s main recommendations are for the Santos government to adopt tactics which respond to the changing nature of the threat to Colombian security, e.g. the FARC’s increasing involvement in drug trafficking, and to cooperate with neighbors such as Venezuela in tackling drug networks.
It also calls on Santos to combat ties illegal armed groups have to security forces and officials, and to acknowledge the threat of the paramilitary successors.
The Uribe government has been reluctant to recognize these new groups. After a Human Rights Watch report released in February, titled “Paramilitaries’ heirs: The new face of violence in Colombia,” which highlighted the problem posed by these groups, the government responded that “Paramilitarism in Colombia is extinct and its leaders are in jail.”