HomeNewsBriefColombia Govt Reclassifies BACRIM, Paves Way for Airstrikes
BRIEF

Colombia Govt Reclassifies BACRIM, Paves Way for Airstrikes

COLOMBIA / 9 MAY 2016 BY SAM TABORY EN

The Colombian government has reclassified the country's most powerful criminal bands as a pseudo military threat, authorizing the full use of force against them and raising questions over the legal and political ramifications of the new status. 

On May 5, Colombia's Minister of Defense, Luis Carlos Villegas, announced at least three criminal bands -- previously referred to as BACRIM by the government for the Spanish bandas criminales -- would now be classified as Organized Armed Groups (Grupos Armados Organizados), reported El Espectador. The change permits authorities to "use all of the state's force, without exception" in their efforts to tackle the groups.

The targeted groups include "Clan Úsuga," "Los Puntillos," and "Los Pelusos."

Villegas characterized the former BACRIM as more than organized crime groups, saying they "generate levels of violence that go beyond normal tensions and disturbances."

Clan Úsuga, also known as the the Urabeños, are a powerful criminal band with an active presence in 22 of the country's 32 departments. Los Puntillos and Los Pelusos are two lesser-known emergent criminal operations.

Los Pelusos reportedly operate with some 200 armed members in the department of Norte de Santander, controlling much of the illicit coca cultivation along the border with Venezuela in that department. Los Puntillos operate with some 300 armed members in Colombia's Eastern Plains with purported access to military grade weapons. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The new classification paves the way for increased use of military force against the groups formerly known as BACRIM, the appetite for which has been growing for at least the last half year. Colombia's military launched the first ever airstrike against the Urabeños in November 2015, and in April 2016 Colombian authorities outlined a greater role for the military in the ongoing fight against organized crime, BACRIM included. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the BACRIM

Increased military offensives and the use of airstrikes against BACRIM, however, raise concern. Unlike Colombian guerrilla groups, which operate largely from secluded camps, BACRIM like the Urabeños operate among the general population. This raises the risk of collateral damage and, more broadly, serious legal and human rights concerns regarding the state's role in bombing its own citizens. 

Classifying BACRIM as something more than a criminal group also complicates the legal question of how national and international actors should engage with them. The new designation places the groups in a legal grey zone, making them something beyond a common criminal entity but short of an armed actor in Colombia's internal conflict.

It is unclear what effect the classification will have on the possibility of any future negotiations or demobilization effort. The Urabeños have intimated that it wants to be included in ongoing peace negotiations, while the government has previously denied that possibility. 

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

POLICE REFORM / 10 JAN 2014

The fact that Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro went on national television and directly addressed the tragic murders of actress Monica…

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2010

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have released a public statement in reaction to the death of their…

COLOMBIA / 16 NOV 2015

The following passage explores how the process of fragmentation has changed Latin America's organized crime landscape, and what the implications…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Criminal Enterprise on the High Seas

12 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an extensive investigation into Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that plagues the waters of nine Latin American countries. Among the stories were how…

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…