A map published by political news website La Silla Vacia shows the striking similarities between territories formerly controlled by paramilitary groups and areas that today have an emerging criminal gang (BACRIM) presence.
Departments like Antioquia and Cordoba who had a high presence of paramilitaries before demobilization remain with a high presence of criminal gangs such as “Aguilas Negras,” “ERPAC,” “Los Paisas,” “Los Rastrojos,” “Los Urabeños” and “Oficina de Envigado” who reportedly have a presence in 23 of the 28 municipalities in Cordoba.
As opposed to their AUC predecessors who began as militias intended to defend Colombian land owners against leftist guerrilla groups, these criminal gangs focus on drug trafficking and extortion. However there are reported cases of political intimidation such as the case of the Aguilas Negras — a non-cohesive group dedicated to protecting the economic interests of former mid-level paramilitary commanders scattered across Colombia — who have been known to pass out political flyers and intimidate human rights workers.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos has feverishly denied political rights to these criminal organizations who according to Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera, are “pure and simple organized crime, directly associated with narco-trafficking.”
In March however, director of Social Action, Diego Molano, solicited the Senate to include the victims of emerging criminal gangs (BACRIM) in reparations projects for the victims of Colombia’s violent conflict.
In 2010, the Organization of American States (OAS) also demonstrated concern about the rising number of homicides in Colombia as a result of gangs that have emerged from demobilized paramilitary groups.
According to a report from the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, 15.5% of 55,000 former members of illegal armed groups have rearmed meaning 8,500 former paramilitaries and guerrillas had rearmed as of December 2010 when the report was released. The non-governmental organization Indepaz counts the ranks of emerging criminal gangs at more than 6,000.