( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
FROM : Publico.es
Some 10,000 armed men terrorize Colombian campesinos with complete impunity
Comandante Mauricio, with some of his paramilitaries of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia [the United Colombian Self-defense, the paramilitaries—SC], somewhere in Catatumbo. [Cecilia, I think this must have been a pie de foto]
Antonio Albiñana—August 22, 2009
Under different names—the generic name is “emerging bands”—in the greater part of Colombian territory there has been seen a reorganization of the paramilitary phenomenon with the same elements that have been there since the beginning of the 90s: drug trafficking, extortion, seizing lands through forced displacement, and intervening in politics. Insecurity and crime are spreading en Colombia as the evident failure of the banner under which President Alvaro Uribe is trying to be reelected: “Democratic Security.”
For the political scientist Claudia López, who raised the scandal of “parapolitics, “the facts show that if the FARC were to disappear today, the levels of violence, except the deaths by attacks and mines, would remain practically the same.” The Uribe government has centered its policy of democratic security on defeat of the guerrillas, while the phenomenon that has most reached throughout the country has been the resurging of paramilitarism. According to the National Police, the problem includes eight bands with 4,500 members. But diverse NGOs and even the Defender of the People [a government human rights office—SC] have a list of more than 82 bands that operate in 273 municipalities, with no fewer than 10,000 well-armed men, half of whom come from the old paramilitary organizations, supposedly demobilized.
The president focuses on defeating the guerrillas and turns a blind eye to the thousands of murders by the “paras”
Since the beginning of his second term in 2006, Uribe began a process of demobilization agreed upon with the paramilitaries, the majority of which were in groups of the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia). There were public deliveries of weapons, participation by international organizations, and even the appearance of their highest leaders live Salvatore Mancuso in the tribunal of the Parliament to explain the “services” given to Colombia in its struggle against the guerrillas. In reality, as the follow-up commission of the Organization of American States has pointed out, not all the weapons, and not the most modern, were turned over, and the paramilitaries continued organizing in areas like Nariño, Córdoba, La Guajira or Bolívar. In Northern Santander, Mancuso himself rebuilt, through his middle-level commanders, the dread Catatumbo Block, responsible for some 2,000 murders.
In Sucre, the men of “Jorge 40,” currently extradited as Mancuso in the US for drug trafficking (not for the paramilitary crimes) responsible for at least 1,500 deaths who have received no punishment and continue operating, combining forced displacement of campesinos with legal activity through politicians, business people and functionaries. Indeed, the paramilitaries have never really be punished for their massacres and illicit businesses.
The most important emerging bands that reach throughout the country are: The Black Eagles, who are now active in Córdoba, Santander, Magdalena Medio, Antioquia and even in poor barrios of Bogotá, like San Cristóbal; Los Restrajos [The Stubble—SC], inheritors of the cartel of northern Cauca and have now reached into a big part of the country; and The Paisas. The carry out the same activities as always (drug trafficking, extortion, seizing land and forcing the campesinos to be displaced, rape as a weapon of pressure), and are active in 25 of the 32 departments of Colombia.
Politics “has more than ever been taken over by the mafia and corruption,” assures one analyst
They also intervene in politics with the persecution of community leaders, of human rights and victims’ organizations, and they are deeply embedded in state structures. The most recent scandal has been that of the head of the Prosecutor’s office in Medellín, Valencia Cossio, brother of the Minister of Justice, whose activity was presumably linked to the service of the most feared paramilitaries of the region and who today is awaiting sentencing.
The Defender of the People itself has been the object of actions of the new paramilitaries. En reality, the same as always, because as sources in that institution pointed out, “ It’s about the regrouping of paramilitaries who had been demobilized and continue recruiting minors.” On the 11th of this month, the building of the Defender in Córdoba was broken into and the only thing stolen was a computer that contains information about human rights violations by paramilitaries and the security forces. The same thing has happened at their headquarters in Barrancabermeja and Catagena.
There are now 3.5 million displaced persons
According to the Defender of the People, there are constant threats against NGOs and human rights defenders in Bogotá, César, Magdalena and Bolívar. Also, the crimes and threats to achieve violent displacement of campesinos. Today in Colombia there are more than three and a half million displaced persons, and their number keeps growing.
However, the Uribe government does not respond to this phenomenon, acting weakly and treating the paramilitary activity (murders, extortions, expulsions)as isolated acts of “common criminals.” And there is frequent connivance between the forces of order and the paramilitary bands, with the fabulous benefits of drug trafficking greasing everything.
As the analyst Claudia López wrote this week in the newspaper El Tiempo: “Drug trafficking is cleaned and legitimated through politicians and functionaries who pose as governors, mayors, colonels and a complete range of public functionaries and legal business people, at a cost of tens of thousands of deaths.” With tens of parliamentarians who served as a support for Uribe in his first reelection now prisoners because of their connections with the paramilitaries, according to López, Colombian politics “has more than ever been taken over by the mafia and corruption.”
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