The United Nations and NGO Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) expressed Monday their concern for the high level of neo-paramilitary violence in Colombia, specifically in the northern department of Cordoba.
The UN delegate for the High Commissioner of Human Rights warns that these so-called Emerging Criminal Groups (BACRIM) are a direct result of the disintegration of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The delegate also urged the authorities and the national government to further ensure the safety of human rights defenders and the general public, reports Terra.com
Violence between neo-paramilitary groups and drug gangs is impacting Colombia’s civilian population, primarily in the north of the country where several neo-paramilitary groups are active and drug gang Los Rastrojos is gaining ground.
According to Codhes, 600 people were killed in Cordoba in 2010, along with another 45 so far this year. Police officials affirm only 28 killings in Cordoba this year. International attention was placed on Cordoba after the January 10 massacre of two biology students from Bogota near a beach in the department.
Following the double murder, Colombia’s Vice President Angelina Garzon called the BACRIM Colombia’s “new enemy” and security forces started an offensive to halt the increasing power of the drug trafficking groups in the department.
But drug violence is affecting other departments in the north as well. The Caribbean region, containing Antioquia, La Guajira, Cordoba, Atlantico, Sucre and Bolivar is a region of great importance for the export of cocaine and the import of arms and chemicals used in cocaine production The region has seen a shifting power balance between neo-paramilitary gangs such as “Los Paisas,” the “Office of Envigado,” the “Aguilas Negras” and “Los Urabeños,” who were formed after the dismantling of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 2003 and 2006 . These groups’ strongholds traditionally are in the regions now heavily affected by the violence.
This intra-paramilitary violence affected the city of Medellin heavily in 2009 and 2010, but eased in the last quarter of 2010.
The Pacific coast, controlled mostly by Los Rastrojos is also feeling the affects of the powerful drug gangs. According to a recent report from Caracol Radio, Los Rastrojos are recruiting children to join their ranks.
Los Rastrojos, formed from the now-defunct Norte del Valle cartel, is alleged to have formed an alliance with the much weaker Paisas in the troubled Cordoba department, enforcing its presence in regions outside of its traditional base around the city of Cali.
El Tiempo reports that Colombia’s minister of interior delivered plans Monday to analyze and combat the rise in BACRIM violence. Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera plans a summit with the vice president, police and army officials to discuss the rise in crime by these Emerging Criminal Groups.