Colombia’s defense minister has called on Congress not to grant political status to neo-paramilitary groups, as they lack any political ideology and are simply “vulgar narco-traffickers,” RCN Radio reports Wednesday.
Rodrigo Rivera addressed Congress with a speech that called for the body not to grant neo-paramilitary groups, known by the government as BACRIM, political status.
The granting of political status would signify that a group had a political cause or motive and subsequently would allow any demobilizing or captured members to be tried separately from common criminals. They could thereby possibly gain concessions, or at least reduced sentences, from the government.
Under the 2005 Justice and Peace Law, intended to demobilize paramilitary organizations, members of these groups were awarded political status because they were ostensibly driven ideologically by a counter-insurgency against the FARC and the ELN, although it was also a government method to incentivize demobilization.
The government appears to be drawing a clear legal line between paramilitaries and neo-paramilitaries, with Rivera noting that these BACRIM have never attempted to “confront the institutions of the state,” nor have they proffered a “counter-terrorism intention.”
“For the government and for the state, the BACRIM are pure and simple organized crime, directly associated with narco-trafficking,” he stated.
Many members of these groups are former mid-level paramilitaries that simply replaced their demobilized leaders, while the ranks have been swelled by an estimated 5,000 “demobilized” paramilitaries who have returned to crime.