Colombian authorities say that criminal group the Gaitanistas now has more members than the country’s second-largest guerrilla organization the National Liberation Army (ELN), highlighting the Gaitanistas’ successful expansion.
Colombia’s Integrated Intelligence Center said that while guerrilla organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the ELN — along with criminal bands such as the Rastrojos and the ERPAC — lost members over the past year, the Gaitanistas, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), had gone up in numbers from 1,970 to 2,366, reported El Tiempo.
According to police, this was not a result of increased recruitment, but reflects how the AGC have successfully absorbed members from rival gangs such as the Rastrojos or the Machos, following the capture of the leaders of these organizations.
InSight Crime Analysis
The AGC have pursued a strategy of aggressive expansion, aiming to control more of Colombia’s major export points for cocaine. They have sought to absorb or buy off rivals from weaker criminal organizations, aided by their significant financial resources and their military background and equipment, which heightens their appeal to smaller groups as well as ensuring discipline within their own ranks.
According to comments made by President Juan Manuel Santos last month, the AGC are now the only one of Colombia’s new generation criminal groups (known as BACRIM) which still has a national presence. Think-thank Nuevo Arco Iris has argued that the overall number of criminal gangs has dropped in Colombia because smaller organizations have been absorbed into the Rastrojos and the AGC. However, the Rastrojos were seriously weakened over the course of 2012 whereas the AGC, as indicated by this latest report, have continued to grow in reach and numbers.
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.