Wikileaks has published a series of cables from 2006 highlighting significant failings in the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) that led demobilized paramilitary fighters to return to arms.
In November 2006, Sergio Caramagna, the director of the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OEA), visited Colombia and identified 14 neo-paramilitary organizations with a possible eight more. These groups, he said, consisted largely of narco-traffickers along with paramilitaries who had refused to demobilize despite benefits offered by the government. There was also a small percentage of paramilitaries who had already purportedly demobilized.
Caramagna said that this number would grow if the government failed to increase the scope of the JPL to include incentives for former mid-level leaders of the AUC, not just its most prominent members. These mid-level commanders are now leading neo-paramilitary groups like “Los Urabeños,” “Los Paisas,” the “Oficina de Envigado” and ERPAC.
Despite its will to make the process work, the government wasn’t doing enough to combat these new groups, according to Caramagna. Peace commissioner Carlos Restrepo seconded this opinion, adding that the police force wasn’t provided with the adequate resources to mitigate the rise of the neo-paramilitaries.
In a cable dated October 24, 2006, significant elements of the JPL – a law which the then interior minister described in another cable as being “difficult to understand, even for Colombians,” – are shown to be deeply flawed, the most prominent being the reintegration efforts.
In the cable, Reintegration Commissioner Frank Pearl cites coordination and implementation problems within government due to divided and overlapping responsibilities
Pearl added that financial resources for reintegration were distributed poorly, with 80% being spent on monthly stipends and administration. This left an insufficient amount for the actual rehabilitation of the ex-paramilitaries.
Based on these facts, Under Secretary William Burns urged better action and communication from the Colombian government to the U.S., acknowledging the disastrous implications if the newly demobilized failed to reintegrate into society and returned to crime.
These fears were made concrete the following month with Caramanga’s findings.
On Thursday, another Wikileaks cable revealed that in 2004, former President Alvaro Uribe predicted the rise of neo-paramilitary organizations from the ashes of the AUC.
However, this speculation ignored the factor of his own government’s failures with the JPL to successfully rehabilitate former AUC members.
Since 2006, neo-paramilitary groups have posed an serious challenge to Colombia’s security forces. Political supporters of Uribe blame current Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera for the high levels of insecurity and violence, while the Liberal Party — an opposition party during the two Uribe terms — blames the violence on the previous administrations.
Colombia’s justice and interior minister admitted Monday that the illegal armed groups have increased their control over large areas of the countryside and within dozens of cities and threaten to influence October’s local elections.