Colombia think tank Indepaz has released its 2011 study on the narco-paramilitary gangs known as 'criminal bands' or BACRIMs, arguing that the groups have expanded their activity across the country.
The study states that the BACRIMs are operating in about a third of Colombia's 1,103 municipalities. The relative amount of territory held by the main BACRIMs has remained roughly static, even as each group has grown slightly.
Los Rastrojos are still the largest of the BACRIMs, with a reported presence in 247 municipalities in 23 departments, followed by the Urabeños with 211 municipalities in 18 departments.
According to Indepaz's count, the narco-paramilitary groups have moved into 46 new municipalities since 2010, reflecting a steady expansion since 2008.
The study also noted that when coca cultivation data is matched up with its maps of paramilitary activity, the Rastrojos, Urabeños, and the now-dismantled ERPAC appear to be cultivating the most coca.
Another interesting assertion is that the Urabeños have moved into Tumaco, Nariño, Colombia's most embattled conflict zone and the traditional territory of the Rastrojos.
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Taken with a recent report that the Rastrojos, Urabeños, and Paisas have formed a non-aggression pact, the Indepaz study suggests that narco-paramilitary groups have consolidated their power in the country's west and north. This reflects a broader trend in Colombia as neo-paramilitary groups consolidate themselves as the primary drug traffickers and drivers of violence.
The report's assertion that the Urabeños have operatives in southwest Tumaco suggests that the group has expanded far outside its traditional territory along the Caribbean coast and north-central Colombian. It is also further indication of the importance of the port city as a hub for drug trafficking and the civil conflict, following a bombing by the FARC earlier this month which left 11 people dead.