HomeNewsAnalysisBACRIM: Winner or Loser in Colombia Peace Deal?
ANALYSIS

BACRIM: Winner or Loser in Colombia Peace Deal?

COLOMBIA / 1 JUL 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Colombia's organized crime groups are preparing to take over FARC-held territory once the rebel group withdraws from a decades-long conflict, but the country's looming peace deal is not a wholly positive development for these criminal organizations. 

Investigations by Colombia's Attorney General's Office found that the Urabeños, Rastrojos and other neo-paramilitary groups known as BACRIM (from the Spanish, "bandas criminales") are eyeing territory currently in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), reported El Espectador. The FARC, who control some 70 percent of all coca-growing territory in Colombia, have agreed to enter designated concentration zones in the event of a final peace agreement with the government. 

The FARC "are leaving and deserting very important drug trafficking and illegal mining territories, and that is when illegal groups arrive," said Juan Carlos Acevedo, director of the Attorney General's organized crime division. Acevedo said this is principally happening in the departments of Putumayo, Chocó, Cauca and Nariño.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of BACRIM

The Urabeños began fighting for control of FARC territory a little over two years ago, according to El Colombiano. The majority of the fighting has occurred in the same departments where Acevedo says the BACRIM are now looking to occupy FARC territories.  

Meanwhile, community leaders in the department of Córdoba who were providing educational workshops on the FARC peace process reported receiving threats on June 26 from individuals who self-identified as members of the Urabeños. The following day, armed men shot at the house of one of the leaders and left a threatening pamphlet on his doorstep, reported La Silla Vacía. (See below) 

After referencing the FARC peace process, the letter reads "the next bullets will be put in [your] head this is another warning."

16-06-30-Colombia-Pamphlet-Urabenos

Photo c/o La Silla Vacía

InSight Crime Analysis

The recent events encapsulate both the unique opportunities and dangers facing Colombia's criminal organizations as a final peace agreement with the FARC approaches.

The Attorney General's investigation confirms what InSight Crime has found during recent field research: illegal armed groups are looking to take over the criminal economies the FARC will presumably leave behind once a peace deal is signed. For this reason, the BACRIM could be one of the principal criminal beneficiaries of the FARC withdrawing from the conflict. In addition to rebel group the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), the BACRIM are well-positioned to acquire a share of the FARC's illicit revenue streams that stem from their involvement in the drug trade, illegal mining and extortion.

At the same time, the reported threats against community leaders in Córdoba underscore the new challenges a peace accord would present the BACRIM. According to La Silla Vacía, the community leaders are convinced the threats are a response to last week's ceasefire agreement, which included language that suggested criminal organizations will come under greater duress from the security forces.

"An alliance between the FARC and the government to counter [the Urabeños] would not be convenient for them," one of the community leaders told La Silla Vacía.

SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profile

Of course, it's possible the motive behind the threats was more financial than political. Ariel Ávila, an investigator at Colombia's Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación) recently told El Colombiano that the Urabeños and other neo-paramilitary groups are often hired to carry out assassinations of social leaders. 

It is also worth noting Colombia's criminal groups -- especially the Urabeños -- are already facing heavy security pressure. Earlier this year, the government commissioned an elite unit known as the Search Bloc to combat the BACRIM, and security forces have mounted an operation to hunt down Urabeños boss Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel."

The government has nonetheless indicated the BACRIM will become an even greater security priority once a peace agreement is signed with the FARC. The military, which has traditionally been used against Colombia's guerrilla groups, has also proposed taking a more active crime-fighting role should the FARC and ELN lay down their weapons. 

The possibility of the FARC leaving the field provides new opportunities for the BACRIM to expand their operations, but it also puts them in greater danger. How this situation plays out will help shape the future of Colombia's organized crime landscape. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

AUC / 25 JUN 2021

Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo, alias “Memo Fantasma,” a former paramilitary leader and longtime drug trafficker who escaped prosecution for decades…

ALFONSO CANO / 10 JAN 2011

In a thirteen minute video message posted on Youtube, the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)…

COLOMBIA / 9 AUG 2017

Venezuelans fleeing the nation's political and economic crisis are boosting both criminal profits and the sources of cheap labor for…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…