In an attempt to frustrate ongoing efforts to take down the leadership of Colombia’s largest neo-paramilitary group, Los Urabeños, the organization is reportedly offering rewards for the killing of members of the search bloc and their families.
Within just a few weeks, at least nine policemen were assassinated, presumably by members of the Urabeños or low-level criminals seeking to cash the $3000 reward put on the head of any member of the National Police, according to El Tiempo.
An anonymous source high up in the National Police told newspaper El Tiempo that the leadership of the drug-trafficking paramilitary successor group is offering more than $6000 for the killing of any member of the search bloc that has been chasing Urabeños chief “Otoniel” since early last year.
More worryingly, this same reward is offered for the killing of family members of policemen engaged in the hunt for Colombia’s most wanted drug lord.
“No criminal organization in the world has ever had such reach. They’re not just planning to attack our guys, but their families, hoping we lower the intensity of operations against then,” the anonymous source told El Tiempo.
While the official claimed that the order to begin assassinating policemen “shows they are on their knees.”
However, the truth is more likely the other way around as the more than 1,500 men combing the northwest of Colombia have produced hardly any results and should have plenty of reasons to be desperate, especially now there is a target on their head.
In spite of the presence of such large police force, the Urabeños had no difficulty shutting down parts of northern and western Colombia between Thursday and Saturday in spite of government promises to protect citizens who defied the neo-paramilitaries’ “pacific strike.”
The strike made it clear that the police lacks resources to guarantee public security in areas controlled by the neo-paramilitaries.
The police were unable to prevent the hostage-taking of 33 civilians who were traveling through Urabeños territory against the orders of the group’s leadership.
The Urabeños were formed by mid-level commanders of paramilitary organization AUC who defied a demobilization process between 2003 and 2006.
Instead of demobilizing, paramilitaries under the leadership of “Don Mario” took over the AUC’s old drug trafficking routes and has since grown to become Colombia’s largest illegal armed group after the FARC.
The group on several occasions has indicated they want to take part in a peace process currently held with their former arch enemies, the leftist rebel groups FARC and ELN.
However, according to the government the neo-paramilitaries had their chance during the AUC demobilization and are nothing more than drug traffickers.