HomeNewsAnalysisColombia Unable to Halt FARC, New-Generation Drug Gangs: Report
ANALYSIS

Colombia Unable to Halt FARC, New-Generation Drug Gangs: Report

COLOMBIA / 18 NOV 2011 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Two new studies argue that not only has the Colombian government failed to contain the FARC rebel group, but it has not stopped new generation drug gangs, known as BACRIMs, from expanding their activity across the country.

The first report by the Center for Security and Democracy at Sergio Arboleda University agrees with several of the same trends highlighted by other observers of the conflict. Kidnappings overall are going up, and are increasingly carried out by street gangs, not guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The university argues that the FARC have increased their military actions and the security forces have not been able to keep up. This is in agreement with the analysis of Corporation Nuevo Arco Iris, but not with the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP)* -- two of Colombia's most important policy think tanks, who have presented radically different views of the country's conflict this year.

The university study supports the view that the military are growing increasingly reluctant (and in some cases, incapable) of carrying out aggressive campaigns against the FARC. Due to the growing rate of FARC ambushes and sniper attacks against military and police patrols, security commanders choose to bunker up in their encampments for fear of suffering more casualties.

In other regions, the army deploys forces to protect infrastructure and the operations of multinational companies. As a result, it is overstretched and less willing to engage in combat.

The study also notes that a new law, in which the military is tried for human rights offensives in civilian rather than military courts, could also have made the military more reluctant to carry out operations.

Supporting the university report is the latest study by the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (INDEPAZ). The organization paints a similarly grim picture of the government's ability to slow the expansion of Colombia's other major criminal actor, the drug-trafficking gangs dubbed BACRIMs.farc_map1

In 2010, INDEPAZ counted BACRIM activity in 360 of Colombia's 1,102 municipalities, a significant growth from the 259 municipalities with presence of these gangs in 2008. This year, the government has managed to expel the BACRIMs from just 11 municipalities, according to the think-tank.

INDEPAZ notes that the Urabeños (active in 181 municipalities) and the Rastrojos (active in 201) are the strongest of Colombia's gangs. The government only recognizes eight BACRIMS, while INDEPAZ counts 14.

The BACRIMs have apparently prioritized moving into territory near Colombia's borders or along the Pacific coast, INDEPAZ notes. But much of their stronghold overlaps with the territory once held by the most powerful factions of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). This includes the central Coffee Region and the departments of Antioquia and Cordoba, both former hotbeds of AUC activity. Guerrilla activity, meanwhile, remains limited to departments like Cauca (the former hideout of top FARC chief alias "Alfonso Cano") and border states like Arauca and Nariño. (Map, above, shows the FARC's level of activity across Colombia).

This includes northern regions like Catatumbo and Montes de Maria, which have been the focus of the government's "Consolidation" plan, the strategy for building up state presence after expelling the guerrillas. These areas are top recipients of aid from the U.S.

* The FIP is InSight Crime's primary sponsor

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.

Tags

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

COLOMBIA / 18 DEC 2013

A new report into how Colombia's conflict has developed as the FARC guerrillas negotiate with the government shines a light…

COLOMBIA / 4 FEB 2019

Hillside gangs quick to settle scores have been blamed for an increase in killings in the Colombian city of Medellín,…

COLOMBIA / 19 AUG 2004

"Plan Colombia" is a multi-pronged, multi-billion dollar effort to battle drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), insurgencies and paramilitary groups in the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.