By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – According to reports, the Organization of American States has expressed concerns over the terrorizing of Colombia’s civilian population by criminal groups comprised of now-demobilized paramilitary members. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza acknowledged the disappearance of the paramilitary group the Unified Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (“AUC”) as “a political reality,” but emphasized that the OAS is “concerned that the civilian population is still caught in the dynamics imposed by criminal groups post-demobilization.”
Based on the recent OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process report, violence against and displacement of rural Colombian populations is said to be highest in Antioquia, Choco, Nariño and Corodba. Insulza stated that “”it remains imperative to strengthen the economic and community reintegration of villages, ” that are still faced with these demobilization challenges.
The AUC’s demobilization process was carried out from 2003-2006 under former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration. The process is now widely considered to have failed due to the rearming of several paramilitary fighters after the process.
There are several primary reasons for these failures. For example, the Colombian government has failed to offer low and mid-level fighters the same benefits being offered to top AUC leaders. Many of these low and mid-level fighters subsequently went on to join neo-paramilitary organizations. An NGO report from March this year suggested that these criminal groups are present in nearly a third of Colombia.
According to Justice and Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras, as a result of this vast presence, the groups could pose threats to the October 2011 elections. Insulza did not point specifically to the Justice and Peace Law, which forced this demobilization. Rather, Insulza pointed to the economic and psychological problems of reintegrating former fighters into society due to the current unemployment levels in Colombia and the “stigma” attached to being a former paramilitary.
For more information, please see:
Colombia Reports – Colombian Citizens Continue to be Victims of Demobilized AUC: OAS – 20 April 2011
Colombia Reports – Red Cross Labels Criminal Gangs as Primary Concern – 14 April 2011
Upside Down World – Rising from the Ashes of Demobilization in Colombia – 13 April 2011