Armed criminal groups are active in only 10% of Colombia, said the country’s defense minister on Monday.
“The criminal gangs were hit harder in 2012 than ever before. All those who were leaders of criminal [gangs] were captured or killed. At the beginning of this year, the leaders of the “Meta Bloc” and the “Renacer” gang [were eliminated],” said defense minister Juan Carlos Pinzon according to newspaper El Tiempo.
The Meta Bloc is believed to be a dissident faction of the neo-paramilitar
Pinzon said only 200 Colombian municipalities, equivalent to roughly 10% of the national territory, register the presence of the “Bacrim,” political-speak for emergent armed criminal groups.
The two most influential criminal groups in Colombia are “Los Urabeños” — a neo-paramilitary group from the northwestern Uraba region and “Los Rastrojos” — a drug trafficking group based in the southwestern Valle del Cauca department.
Pinzon said Colombian security forces dealt blows to the armed groups in departments like Choco and Valle del Cauca.
“In [those departments] there have been various captures [and] a year ago their top leader [alias Giovany] was killed,” said the defense minister.
“Giovany” refers to Juan de Jesus Usaga, the former leader of Los Urabeños who was killed in January of 2012. Los Urabeños reacted to the killing by launching an armed strike which paralyzed large parts of northwestern and northern Colombia for several days.
“These organizations have been atomized and do not act under a unified command,” claimed Pinzon.
Last week, Camilo Gonzales, the president of conflict-monitoring NGO Indepaz, told Colombia Reports that Los Urabeños have maintained their standing in northern Colombia.
“I think they are maintaining in their key traditional zones in Uraba and Cordoba, there have not been many changes in leadership nor debilitation of their strong points,” Gonzales said.