Despite hopes for peace, following the the mass-demobilization of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary group the AUC, violence in Colombia’s northern department of Cordoba remains widespread, as neo paramilitary forces fill the vacuum left by AUC.
According to Verdad Abierta, a Colombian news publication focusing on paramilitaries and the armed conflict in Colombia, the two recent massacres in the towns of Montelibano and Puerto Libertador, which left 16 people dead over one weekend, are not isolated incidents.
Instead Verdad Abierta views the massacres as evidence that paramilitary groups, guerillas, criminal gangs and narcotraffickers remain strong in the region.
The fighting between these groups for the control of the lucrative drug business has the potential to bring higher levels of violence and terror to the region than previously experienced under the era of the AUC and left-wing guerilla groups who once controlled the region, Verdad Abierta believes.
A report released last month from the Universidad del Sinú, which identified security threats in Cordoba following the demobilization of the paramilitaries, found that while kidnappings, cattle theft, and acts of terrorism have decreased, forced displacement, forced recruitment, land theft from farmers, and extortion continue to run rampant in the department.
According to Verdad Abierta, the demobilization efforts, which were launched in 2003, resulted in the AUC fractioning into splinter groups composed of veteran paramilitary fighters who refused to abide by the demobilization deals signed by their leaders.
Colombian authorities estimate that there are currently 3,700 men involved with the various paramilitary groups across the country, many of them in the Cordoba department.
The neo-paramilitary groups that have evolved since the mass-demobilization of the AUC, which was formalized in 2006, continue to fight one another for control of the drug trade, resulting in the aforementioned violence inflicted upon the residents of Cordoba.
This has left Cordoba in very poor shape, compared to other areas of Colombia, according to Verdad Abierta. In addition to witnessing an estimated 2,500 murders between 2002 and 2009, the department has also seen 125,000 forced displacements.
According to the National Report on Competitiveness 2009-2010, Cordoba’s capital Monteria is ranked last in terms of economic competitiveness, in comparison with the capitals of all other Colombian departments.
Some of the reasons for this, the report explained, is the department’s relatively poor literacy rate (84.1%), poor reach of social security health coverage (60%), high mortality rates for kids under one (44.5%), high rates of poverty, low levels of investment in innovation and technology, and poor public services.
Due to its geographic location serving as a corridor in drug trafficking routes, its rurally-based population centers, and its historically decentralized nature of government, illegal armed groups have long thrived in Cordoba.