Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon on Wednesday has clarified the limits of possible new military powers outlined in a new reform initiative to combat criminal groups.
The initiative, introduced to Congress on Tuesday, includes proposals which could see criminal groups known in Colombia as “BACRIM” reclassified as “armed groups,” allowing the army to respond to them with the same force they use to combat the country’s largest rebel group the FARC and second largest ELN.
However Pinzon moved on Wednesday to calm fears over increased army powers, stating that “it is not the case that statutory law is going to allow bombardment of urban zones, where the ‘Bacrim’ operate, what we are looking for are a few judgment clarifications.”
“For example, if you ask me if we are going to bomb the Santa Marta criminal group, the answer would be no, as it is an urbanized area and what is needed in that case is police and judicial intervention, but in the case of an armed group, no matter what it is called, the army will be allowed to intervene, within the specific limits and proportions defined by this law” said Pinzon.
According to the proposed amendments, “armed groups” are defined as groups whose violence inhibits the capacity of the institutions to protect the public and maintain order and have a command, control and structure of pseudo military character.
Many of the current key players in drug trafficking in Colombia are neo-paramilitary groups like “Aguilas Negras” and “Los Urabeños” who emerged after the demobilization of the paramilitary organization AUC.
“What we are trying to do is to provide the community with a guarantee that impunity will not be accepted, nor will irregular actions that are outside of the ethics codes of the Public Forces,” concluded the minister.
The reform reportedly has the support of senate president Roy Barreras, as well as backing from political parties, including Liberal, Conservative and Green as well as the Radical Change and U parties.
- Ministro Pinzón radica proyecto de Ley Estatutaria de reforma a la Justicia Penal Militar (Ministerio de Defensa)
- Gobierno aclara que no es posible ‘bombardear’ a las Bacrim (El Espectador)