The director of Colombia’s Presidential Human Rights Program responded on Wednesday to Human Rights Watch’s damning new report on violent groups in Colombia, claiming that “Paramilitarism in Colombia is extinct and its leaders are in jail.”
Carlos Franco Echevarria argued in a statement that the violent groups are not neo-paramilitaries, which have risen to take the place of demobilized paramilitary groups, but rather are organized criminal gangs distinct from paramilitarism.
“What the government differs on is the nature of the problem. We do not believe that it is an extension of paramilitarism, but a problem caused by drug trafficking,” said Franco.
Wednesday’s HRW report blamed the rise of the gangs in part on the government, which it said had failed to fully eradicate the power structures of defunct paramilitary coalition the AUC, thus allowing to the rise of new groups to take its place.
Franco’s statement also revealed that the government has invited the Americas Director of HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco, and his team to a meeting with the Intelligence Committee to discuss the report in depth.
This stands in contrast to the statement from Defense Minister Gabriel Silva earlier on Wednesday, which said that the HRW report deliberately sought to undermine the government’s Democratic Security Policy, and that Silva had canceled a meeting planned with Vivanco that afternoon.