The demobilization and the subsequent release of almost all 280 alleged members of neo-paramilitary group ERPAC was nothing but a media show, said Nuevo Arco Iris, an NGO specialized in monitoring Colombia’s conflict, Monday.
According to the NGO, 269 of the approximately 1,200 members of the feared neo-paramilitary group demobilized last Thursday and Friday. 248 of them were released. Previously, media reported that 284 fighters demobilized and 267 were released because they had no criminal record and were not wanted by the prosecution. Previous to the demobilization, ERPAC leader “Caracho” had said that 450 members of his group would demobilize.
The national coordinator of Nuevo Arco Iris, Ariel Avila, stressed in an interview with RCN Radio that for each demobilized member only one firearm was surrendered.
Avila expressed to be worried that Colombia’s armed forces do not have the intelligence in the region to monitor the whereabouts of the demobilized and released neo-paramilitaries.
“Despite the military aparatus the state has in [the department of] Meta [where the demobilization took place], intelligence does not work,” Avila told RCN.
“They handed over one machine gun and 50 old rifles, while investigations by [conflict-monitoring NGO] Codhes and the NGOs ratify that ERPAC was one of the best equipped because of arms trafficking over the Venezuelan border. What happened with these weapons?” Avila wondered.
The coordinator also stressed that ERPAC fighters from the Casanare department and the area around the town of Mapiripan did not demobilize, while this had been announced by Caracho and authorities.
According to the Nuevo Arco Iris coordinator, the ERPAC demobilization is history repeating itself referring to the demobilization of the AUC between 2003 and 2006 when tens of thousands of paramilitary fighters demobilized but maintained control over drug trafficking and remained quiet about their ties to local economic and political elites.
“It happened again that these groups paint a picture of having nothing to do with drug-trafficking elites and local politicians. The do not say where the drug trafficking routes to venezuela are.”
According to Avila, rumors are that ERPAC ally and one of Colombia’s most wanted drug traffickers, “El Loco” Barrera inhereted the region from the demobilized fighters and that chances have increased that “Los Rastrojos,” a drug trafficking organization operating from the southwest of the country, will make way to the eastern plains.