Groups formed from the AUC while the paramilitary group was demobilizing between 2003 and 2006 have taken over their predecessors’ position as the primary violators of human rights now in Colombia, according to the government.
The report, published by the National Center of Historic Memory (CNMH), is a part of a study called “Paramilitary demobilization and reintegration. Post-agreement scenario with the AUC”, which was distributed by the institution in Bogota and gives an overview of the situation of former paramilitaries in Colombia.
The report stresses that between 2008 and 2010 bloody disputes in different regions of the country were born between gangs after the end of the AUC, causing authorities to consider it only a “partial demobilization of paramilitaries.”
The AUC successor groups include the Urabeños, led by former paramilitary “Otoniel,” considered the most powerful drug trafficking organization in Colombia at the moment.
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The presence of these gangs, or neo-paramilitary forces, “is notable in more than 200 municipalities” of the 1,123 total in the country and, despite state persecution, “consolidate and maintain a network of alliances with regional, national and international impact,” according to the report.
The AUC demobilized in 2006 after a process of negotiation with the government of President Alvaro Uribe. Over 30,000 armed individuals linked to the paramilitary group were integrated into the process of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR), facilitated by the Colombian Agency of Reintegration (ACR).
This number is precisely what the report casts in doubt because, according to the study, “the number of alleged members has doubled,” while “some structures and core mechanisms of the demobilized groups remain in arms and continue the development of the same activities.”
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In the review of DDR progress and the members who entered the demobilization programs, “criminal recidivism margins remained important,” as well as the “dissident groups to the agreement” reached in negotiations with the Colombian government.
“As a consequence, (there were) significant margins of former paramilitaries violently killed, captured and convicted through the justice system,” the report added.
The numerous acts of violence committed against the demobilized and their families represented acts “in retaliation to disclosures (on paramilitary activities) they made or could make” within the DDR process.
For example, as part of the agreement, the former paramilitaries are protected under the Justice and Peace Law which provides penalties of up to eight years in prison in exchange for cooperation to solve crimes.
Further, those who do not comply in offering information to authorities can lose the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law. A leader of the former AUC insurgency group, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” is an example, having lost access to the terms for not helping to clarify various details.
According to the CNMH report, which was coordinated by its director Gonzalo Sanchez, some 800 homicides against demobilized AUC members have occurred as a result of the possibility of their disclosing data concerning other former paramilitaries.
The authors of the study also concluded that the experiences with the AUC are “in perspective of the new peace pacts with the insurgent guerrillas.”
The National Government has been in peace talks with the FARC, the country’s largest leftist guerrilla group, for three years to find a negotiated solution to the armed conflict raging Colombia for over half a century, while maintaining “exploratory” talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second largest guerrilla group, in order to start a similar process.
Furthermore, the CNMH leaders demanded that follow-up, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms be made for the “reintegration processes and programs for demobilized” members of the illegal armed groups.
In this regard, the authors also call on state agencies to act together to realize a study “that would clarify the characteristics, relationships, activities, funding, regional and national contexts and impacts, as well as types of damages, and recommendations for treatment for the post-demobilization groups of the AUC for the sake of their dismantling.”
The AUC formed in 1997 in response to the rise of the FARC. Fueled by drug trafficking and with broad support from sectors within the military and mainstream politics, the AUC became a paramilitary organization unprecedented in size and power.
Following the formal demobilization, mid-level commanders of the groups that either neglected to demobilize or returned to the ranks filled the void left by the incarceration of the AUC’s top leaders and formed a new paramilitary, or neo-paramilitary, group to recover their former group’s criminal enterprises and continue threatening and killing rights activists, reintegrated former paramilitaries and local politicians.
The biggest of these groups, Los Urabeños, has since allegedly exceeded the ELN, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, in size and allegedly tried to influence the 2014 elections, implicitly endorsing the reelection of President Juan Manuel Santos.
Efforts of reintegration aim to dismantle all insurgency groups, including the FARC, the ELN, the AUC and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL).
The reintegration process for demobilized fighters lasts an average of six and a half years, consisting of three phases, from academic training up until job implementation, according to ACR. The programs include help with work, education, economic stability, psychosocial support and execution of projects.
DDR covers two types: collective, which are the results of peace agreements, and individual, personal decisions to demobilize. Unlike other countries Colombia assumes the entire institutional responsibility of the Reintegration Process, ACR states.