Emerging criminal gangs have consolidated their power and have a “capacity to act” in 360 Colombian municipalities, a report by NGO Indepaz released Thursday showed.
These neo-paramilitary groups are composed of former paramilitaries and linked to drug trafficking. The criminal gangs conducted “violent actions” and “illegal business” in 259 municipalities in 2008, according to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz).
By 2009, that number had expanded to 278 and by 2010, it had reached 360, which is almost one third of Colombia’s 1,120 municipalities.
Between 2008 and 2010, the new criminal gangs’ “radius of mobility had expanded in 100 municipalities” and they had “consolidated their presence” in the northern and western parts of the country, especially in the departments of Antioquia, Cauca, Caldas, Casanare, Cesar, Choco, Cordoba, Bolivar, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca and Sucre.
The emerging criminal gangs, which the Colombian government has dubbed BACRIM, have exerted their violent presence most in the Cordoba department where 23 of the 28 municipalities have been affected. In the Cesar department 19 of 25 municialities have suffered BACRIM violence and in the Choco department, 21 of 30 municipalities have seen criminal gang presence.
These statistics signify that emerging criminal gangs are the biggest threat to security in Colombia today, according to Indepaz.