Two of Colombia’s most powerful paramilitary successor groups are engaged in talks with authorities to negotiate their demobilization, according to the government of the Antioquia province.
The groups allegedly in talks with authorities are the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), the primary successor group of the paramilitary AUC, and Medellin crime syndicate Oficina de Envigado, the group once controlled by AUC commander “Don Berna,”
According to the Peace Management Office of Antioquia, a province that traditionally has been a hotbed of neo-paramilitary activity, informal talks have progressed to the point that the national government should begin designing plans that would lead to the neo-paramilitaries’ end of criminal activity.
“There is important progress” in the talks between authorities and the neo-paramilitary groups, Designated Peace Manager of Antioquia, Luis Guillermo Pardo, told public TV station Telemedellin without giving further details.
The AGC is by far Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organization and the Oficina de Envigado, once founded by late drug lord Pablo Escobar, continues to run Medellin’s criminal underworld while maintaining ties to corrupt elements within the local political and economic elites.
While the AGC has consistently expressed support for the peace talks with the guerrillas, they are also most likely to be able to expand their control over drug trafficking throughout Colombia is the FARC, another major player in the illicit industry, demobilizes.
The Oficina de Envigado has explicitly warned the public that they will violently resist the reintegration of FARC fighters in Medellin.
According to repeated statements made by President Juan Manuel Santos and released draft agreements with the FARC, paramilitary successor groups will not be allowed a political status that could allow judicial leniency.
Instead, they would be submitted to increased persecution to cut the ties between political and economic elites, and their criminal or paramilitary allies.
The military began a major military offensive against the AGC in 2014, but with little success.
However, earlier this year the government allowed aerial bombing of designated “Armed Criminal Groups” including the AGC, giving the authorities a major advantage in combating these groups.
Paramilitary groups have been active in Colombia since the late 1950s. Throughout modern Colombian history they have been aligned with legal political and economic forces.
The AUC, the biggest paramilitary group in Colombia’s history, demobilized between 2003 and 2006. Nevertheless, their successors have since become Colombia’s primary human rights violators.