According to Colombia’s prosecution, the AGC paramilitary organization has approximately 7,000 members, making it more than four times as big as authorities have yet admitted.
The Prosecutor General’s Office’s organized crime chief, Claudia Carrasquilla, told press Saturday that Colombia’s largest illegal armed group has “approximately 7,000 men throughout the country.”
The spokesperson of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), “Raul Jaramillo,” told Colombia Reports earlier this year that the dissident paramilitary group had 8,000 members, “including informants.”
Colombia’s largest neo-paramilitary group AGC claims to have 8,000 members
Police have said, however, that the group has no more than 1,570 members, an estimate now contradicted by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
According to independent conflict monitor Indepaz, the AUC was active in almost one third of Colombia’s municipalities in 2016.
The Prosecutor General’s Office will be in charge of carrying out the group’s demobilization in the event that negotiations between authorities and paramilitaries about a surrender to justice are successful.
The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has been negotiating the conditions of surrender of the group formed a decade ago by dissident mid-level commanders from the paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
Why paramilitary groups still exist in Colombia
The group is the largest of the latest generation of paramilitary groups that began operating in the 1980s with the support of business owners, political elites, the military and the United States.
After the death of drug lord Pablo Escobar, the warlords that would form paramilitary umbrella group AUC in 1997 took over drug trafficking activities from the Medellin Cartel.
Since then, AUC member and successor groups have taken control over much of the highest echelon of Colombia’s cocaine trade and exports.
Colombia’s most important post-FARC drug trafficking groups
Coca cultivation in Colombia in 2016 was approximately four times as high as in 1993, the year Escobar was killed.
The AGC and similar paramilitary groups are considered the country’s primary human rights violator, responsible for more violations than guerrilla groups and the security forces.