Colombia’s neo-paramilitary groups left more than 320,000 victims since their parent organization, the AUC, formally demobilized its last block in 2006, according to the government’s Victims Unit.
The Victims Unit’confirmed that 332,149 people have registered as victims of what the government calls “BaCrim” in an attempt to disassociate groups like “Los Urabeños” from the AUC, a now-defunct designated terrorist group.
Colombia’s latest generation of paramilitary groups have continued the displacement practices of small farmers, and the widespread threatening and killing, among others, those trying to reclaim their lands or rights activists.
“Official figures show that 322,504 people have been victims of forced displacement. 42,784 of threats come from these criminal organizations, 559 suffered sexual violence, 560 forced disappearances, 8,194 murders, 305 kidnappings, 147 of torture, 82 juveniles have been recruited by these groups and 49 people were dispossessed of their lands,” according to the report.
The regions that suffered the most at the hands of these groups like the Urabeños were the provinces of Antioquia, Valle de Cauca, Cordoba, Narino and Choco, exactly the areas that suffered most from paramilitary violence perpetrated by the AUC.
Marco Romero, director of the displacement monitoring NGO CODHES, warned of an alarming increase of displaced persons in the country because of violence by the latest generation of paramilitaries, after this phenomenon had been in decline for years.
In 2013 the Constitutional Court has ordered in different rulings that the government include the victims of these decade-old groups in the national Register of Victims.
Until then, the 2011 Victims Law had not legislated for their inclusion considering that these groups are not involved in the armed conflict even though their victims are suffering the same effects as those at the hands of the AUC, FARC or ELN.
Romero claims it is essential that these victims are recognized by the Constitutional Court and that this latest figure of more than 320,000 is a clear indication of the ongoing victimization of Colombians, whose country has suffered war for more than half a decade.
This latest publication comes just a week after a report by conflict monitoring Indepaz said that in the first quarter of 2016, 14 paramilitary groups were active in 146 of 1,100 municipalities spread over 22 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.
These reports completely contradict the official stance of the Colombian government and the US, which has helped Colombia combat illegal armed groups, who have insisted that paramilitary groups ceased to exist following the demobilization of the AUC between 2003 and 2006.
As the Colombian government is currently locked in the final stages of discussions with left-wing rebels the FARC, Santos is under increasing pressure to acknowledge the neo-paramilitary threat that could potentially derail four years of peace talks and the prospects of peace if deals with the guerrillas are reached.