HomeNewsAnalysisFake Colombian Demobilization Stories Explain Rise of BACRIMs
ANALYSIS

Fake Colombian Demobilization Stories Explain Rise of BACRIMs

AUC / 11 MAR 2011 BY HANNAH STONE EN

Paramilitary commanders have said that the demobilization of some elements of the AUC was faked, with the blessing of government officials, undermining official claims that paramilitarism in Colombia is a thing of the past.

Jailed commander Freddy Rendon Herrera, alias ‘El Aleman,’ who headed the Elmer Cardenas Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), told a Bogota court last week that the first demobilization was a “farce,” faked for the benefit of powerful drug interests.

The 2003 surrender of more than 800 members of the Cacique Nutibara Bloc was staged by the head of the Medellin underworld, Diego Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna,’ with the collaboration of peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, stated Rendon. The AUC leader said that Murillo, then the AUC’s ‘Inspector General,’ hired common criminals to pose as paramilitaries, supplying them with uniforms and old guns, in order to present himself as the leader of the bloc and enjoy the legal benefits of demobilization. This was also said during interviews that InSight conducted with Carlos Mauricio Garcia Fernandez, alias ‘Doble Cero’, commander of the AUC’s rival Metro Bloc, in 2003, before he was assassinated on the orders of Murillo in 2004.

Days after Rendon’s testimony, Ever Veloza, alias ‘HH,’ former commander of the AUC’s Calima Bloc, told courts from his U.S. jail cell that the entire demobilization of the Heroes de Granada Bloc was faked, and that the organization was only created one month prior to its surrender. This was another bloc led by Murillo. Veloza said that drug traffickers such as Juan Carlos Sierra, alias 'El Tuso,’ had paid paramilitary commanders to say that they were part of the AUC so that they could demobilize and get legal benefits.

These allegations are not new, as rumors about these blocs, and numerous others in the AUC, have been circulating since the time of the demobilizations. A 2005 Human Rights Watch report said that the Heroes de Granada demobilization included members of Murillo’s Oficina de Envigado, which “has not traditionally been considered a paramilitary group,” and notes that the event “was preceded by allegations that Don Berna was recruiting people to pose as paramilitaries for purposes of demobilization.” A 2010 report by the same NGO said that officials from Medellin’s Personeria estimated that 75 percent of those who demobilized with the Cacique Nutibara and Heroes de Granada blocs were not paramilitary combatants.

What is new about the latest revelations is the fact that they are made by high-level AUC commanders who are implicating government officials in the deception. Rendon said that the government accepted the demobilization of the Cacique Nutibara even though it knew that many of those going through the process were common criminals, drug dealers and hit men who were not paramilitaries. Veloza even claimed that he had warned peace commissioner Restrepo in advance about the deceptions.

Rendon's and Veloza's statements add weight to the idea that the peace process was not a success. If drug traffickers were able to demobilize, and parts of paramilitary blocs remained active while civilians posed as fighters, then the government clearly did not ensure the demobilization of all of the AUC.  Nor did it thoroughly investigate the crimes and financial links of those who did go through the system. The Oficina de Envigado remains a potent force in Medellin, with much of its leadership made up of former AUC members, while battles between Murillo's former lieutenants for control of the organization is the cause of soaring crime rates in the city.

The Uribe government’s seeming willingness to go along with these fake surrenders is part of the same determination to achieve short-term results at any price that is behind the "false positive" scandal, in which members of the armed forces were revealed to have murdered hundreds of citizens in order to increase their kill counts. The attorney-general’s office is investigating some 1,300 such cases.

This focus on superficial results was behind the botched demobilization process described in the commanders' testimonies, which in turn led to the rise of the new criminal groups ('bandas criminales' - BACRIMs) now menacing the country. Much of the leadership of the BACRIMs is made up of paramilitaries who did not demobilize and others who simply returned to criminal life after handing over weapons.

Both the Santos and Uribe administrations have insisted that the BACRIMs are not linked to the old paramilitaries, arguing that the Uribe government successfully engineered the surrender of the AUC and that the emerging groups are an entirely new phenomenon.

The latest allegations, coming from the paramilitaries themselves, may make that position more difficult to maintain.

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

COLOMBIA / 13 NOV 2018

Recent ELN attacks against the Venezuela military in the state of Amazonas and civilian miners in the state of Bolívar…

COLOMBIA / 6 APR 2015

Authorities have captured six alleged members of Colombian criminal group the Urabeños -- however, none of them are reportedly Colombian…

COLOMBIA / 22 JAN 2014

Human Rights Watch's annual global report underscores how impunity for both criminal groups and corrupt and abusive state institutions is…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…