Colombia’s BACRIM are on average responsible for 3 of every 10 human rights abuses reported in Colombia, according to the national ombudsman, making these criminal groups the most egregious violators of human rights in the country.
The President of the National Federation of Ombudsmen (FENALPER), Andres Santamaria, reported that the hybrid criminal organizations known as BACRIM — a Spanish acronym that stands for “criminal bands” — have replaced right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas as the principal perpetrators of abuses such as mass displacement. The BACRIM control local drug trafficking, extort legal and illegal businesses, and sell processed cocaine to international criminal groups.
According to a FENALPER study, the most affected states are Bolivar, Choco and Antioquia — where BACRIM are responsible for up to 40 percent of human rights violations. Other states on the list were Valle del Cauca, Nariño, Cordoba, Sucre, and Norte de Santander.
The most serious case occurred in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca, where the BACRIM were responsible for 90 percent of 7,000 victims in 17 forced displacements registered between September and November 2012, as various armed groups battled for control of local drug trafficking businesses.
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The report starkly contrasts with recent government comments that 90 percent of Colombia is BACRIM free. A Bogota think tank claimed in March that the government has failed to properly assess and respond to the threat posed by these groups, which infiltrate society at many levels.
Santamaria said the government should consider amending the two-year-old Victims Law, which aims to compensate victims of Colombia’s conflict. The law provides resources for victims of human rights abuses carried out by paramilitaries, guerrillas and state forces, but excludes the BACRIM.
Many civil society organizations also say the BACRIM should be reclassified as conflict actors to give their victims legal recourse. However, the 2011 Victims Law already covers an estimated 4 million people, making it unlikely that the government will expand its purview in the near future.