INDEPAZ Paramilitary Report

The Institute for the Study of Development and Peace (Indepaz is the Spanish acronym.) Presents its 10th Report Monitoring the Presence of Narcoparamilitary Groups, an Activity That Has Been Going On Since 2006

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator, Edited by John Laun)
Report by:  Indepaz Investigative Unit

The tenth report on the monitoring of the presence of narcoparamilitary groups, presented by the Institute for the Study of Development and Peace (Indepaz) takes place in a very important setting:  the peace negotiations between the government and the FARC in Havana (Cuba), negotiations that appear to be at a point of no return.

Last September 23 when the delegations announced the agreement on the topic of justice, in the presence of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC’s top leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri “Timochenko”, the latter stated that they were disposed to lay down their arms and to become a legal organization, but that it is necessary that the government eradicate the phenomenon of paramilitarism.

Although it’s true that, for the government and for the Armed Forces, the paramilitary organizations do not exist, and what the country is experiencing is a phenomenon of Criminal Gangs (Bacrim, bandas criminales, is the Spanish term.), the FARC, for their part, insist that there never was a real demobilization and that the organizations continue to be maintained.  Beyond that debate, Indepaz demonstrates in this report that there is a presence of narcoparamilitary groups that have taken on the characteristics of their predecessors and emphasize their role as a mafia, para-political, and narcoparamilitary complex, with alliances with political patronage, corruption in contracting, and the businesses that are connected to the violence.

That is why this report can become an important tool for identifying the magnitude of the phenomenon of narcoparamilitarism.  According to the investigation, between 2014 and 2015, these organizations were present in 338 municipalities, especially on the Caribbean coast and in Cesar Province, the Pacific region, and in the Orinoquia region.

Of these municipalities, there are 298 in which these armed organizations have been present for more than six years.  In the remaining 40 municipalities the groups are not as deeply rooted.

In addition, the report identifies 17 different narcoparamilitary organizations that operate in the country:  The Urabeños are also known as Clan Usuga or Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces; the Rastrojos; the Buenaventureños or The Machos; The Irregular Armed Forces of Colombia; The Meta Bloc; the Envigado Office; The Vichada Liberators; Cordillera; Los Botalones; The Plainsmen; The Company; Renacer; Los Soto; Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Tolima; Los Policarpa; Los Buenaventuras; and The Chosen Ones.  The Urabeños or the Usuga Clan (270) and Los Rastrojos (111) are the most numerous in the municipalities of this country.

The investigation used various sources, which will be broadened and expanded.

In the first place, a review of news media, including every kind of news media with national and regional circulation (newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio stations, and television news).

Second, information provided by official entities that touch on the subject in one way or another, such as the National Police, the Defense Ministry with its different divisions (Army and Navy); The Public Defender’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the President’s Human Rights Office and the National University Observatory for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Processes (ODDR is the Spanish acronym.).

Third, reports by international organizations such as Mapp/OAS and the United Nations.

Fourth, reports and documents from NGO’s, such as the Center for Investigation and Public Education (Cinep), the Center of Resources for the Analysis of Conflicts (Cerac) the Observatory for Comprehensive Peace (OPI), The Mission for Electoral Observation (MOE), The National Peace Observatory (ONP),  Pastoral Social (the official Catholic Church charity), Justice and Peace (Justicia y Paz), and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).

In fifth place, sympathetic grass-roots organizations in the regions; and finally, work done in the field by Indepaz.

The information is analyzed and organized in comparative formats, which avoids double counting of events, municipalities, and dates.  The following actions will be included:  threats, murders, taking of prisoners, restraint or confining of a population, confrontations, forced disappearances, extortion, seizure of armaments and explosives, laboratories for production of illicit drugs, massacres, transportation and recruitment.  Every event is corroborated with other sources.

In this report data from Early Alerts by the Public Defender’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office or the National Police are not yet included.  In the 2014 annual report, published separately, these sources and other sources from local organizations are included.

Indepaz thanks the organizations and people who have made this report possible and clarifies that the results and analysis are not the responsibility of the sources in any way.

The 2014-2015 report provides data that are similar to those from 2013, especially in the number of municipalities and zones where these narcoparamilitary groups operate.  It confirms their modus operandi, their methods of financing, their connections with members of the Armed Forces and their appropriation of local powers and of income belonging to the government.

The Urabeños presence is consolidated in a large part of the territory (more than 250 municipalities) in an alliance of territorial respect with a new group known as “The Usuga Clan” and The Liberators of Vichada.  We also find present The Rastrojos, The Black Eagles, The Envigado Office, The Meta Bloc, the Cordillera Group and other smaller groups.

It is important to point out the creation of a new narcoparamilitary structure beginning in the second half of 2014, known as The Irregular Armed Forces of Colombia (FIAC).  They are present in the Orinoquia region, especially in the provinces of Meta, Vichada and Guaviare, and they are projecting toward Arauca and Casanare.  They are known to have recruited young people from the third ward (comuna 13) of Ibagué and they seek territorial control the Colombian Orinoquia region.  Their main enemies are the narcoparamilitary  Liberators of Vichada, a group that is supported by The Urabeños.

This group is made up of men who worked for alias “Cuchillo” (“The Knife”) during the time of the People’s Revolutionary Anticommunist Army of Colombia (Erpac), that demobilized in 2011 and turned 500 of their men over to the legal system. But they kept on committing crimes and formed new groups, among them The Liberators of Vichada and The Meta Bloc.

Later on The Meta Bloc appears to have divided geographically into three groups as follows:  one would be the FIAC, another would be the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia” or Black Eagles (who joined with The Urabeños) who committed crimes in the Ariari, and the third would be “The Meta Bloc”, concentrated in the municipality of San Martín.

According to reports from the Attorney General’s Office, the FIAC are divided into squadrons of 25 men, companies of 50, and blocs numbering between 200 and 250 armed combatants.

The report indicates the presence of at least 14 narcoparamilitary organizations in 338 municipalities in the country, between January 2014 and September 2015.


Narcoparamilitary Group

# of Municipalities

Urabeños (also including Clan Usuga and
Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces)
Rastrojos 111
Black Eagles 50
Meta Bloc 8
Envigado Office 7
Liberators of Vichada 7
Cordillera 3
Los Botalones 2
The Plainsmen 2
The Company 4
Renacer 1
Los Soto 1
Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Tolima,
Comando Niche AUC
Los de Policarpa 1
Los del Ejido 1
Total of municipalities with
one or more of these groups

They are present in 31 provinces and in 338 municipalities, constituting 30.1% of the municipalities in the country.

In the list of provinces, we see that there are eight in which more than 60% of the municipalities have registered some presence of armed narcoparamilitaries in the period covering 2014 and ending in September 2015.  In nine provinces there was an armed narcoparamilitary presence in between 30% and 59% of municipalities in the same period.  The most critical situationes are seen on the Caribbean Coast and in Cesar Province, area in the Pacific and the Orinoquia regions.



Municipalities with
Narcoparamilitary Presence

Percent of all municipalities

Amazonas 1 50.0
Antioquia 70 55.6
Aruca 1 12.5
Atlántico 6 26.1
Bogotá 1 100.0
Bolívar 22 48.9
Boyacá 3 2.4
Caldas 1 3.8
Caquetá 3 18.8
Cauca 11 27.5
Casanare 9 47.4
Cesar 20 80.0
Chocó 17 77.3
Córdoba 28 100.0
Cundinamarca 1 0.9
Guaviare 3 75.0
Huila 3 8.1
La Guajira 8 61.6
Magdalena 18 78.3
Meta 12 41.4
Nariño 15 24.2
Norte de Santander 7 17.5
Putumayo 5 38.5
Quindío 6 50.0
Risaralda 6 42.9
San Andrés 1 50.0
Santander 14 16.1
Sucre 22 91.7
Tolima 4 8.5
Valle del Cauca 16 38.1
Vichada 4 100.0
Total 338 31.5

Government and Armed Forces entities insist that these groups are just “criminal gangs” (Bacrim) and that they are not part of any remaining paramilitaries.  They would be groups that did not take part in the demobilization process and that are appearing or regrouping for extortion and drug trafficking. (See National Police reports.)

That characterization, Bacrim, fails to recognize that the narcoparamilitaries after the demobilization of the large paramilitary organizations in 2005 and 2006 retake the characteristics of their predecessors and in fact emphasize their role as a mafioso, parapolitical and narcoparamilitary complex that is allied with and connected to political patronage, corruption in government contracting and businesses that engage in violence.

The objective of narcoparamilitarism is profit gained through force, based on drug trafficking and other illegal businesses, and especially the appropriation of public resources with the complicity and cooperation of politicians.  In order for them to act as they do, to control territories and routes, the narcoparamilitaries act in connivance with members of the Armed Forces and other government officials.  In these alliances they offer their services as allies in counterinsurgency and violence against any opposition or against communities whose social and territorial rights clash with the powerful mafias and parapoliticians.

It is evident that the narcoparamilitary groups have three specific determinants and goals that go beyond mere control of territory.  The first is their make-up as a structured organization of armed men.  The second has to do with their connections to political leaders in the region in order to get hold of government income, and the third is what is known as the “para-economy”, which refers to the illegal businesses that they carry on and that require territorial control, such as drug trafficking routes, micro-trafficking, and extortion.

Based on the actions taken by the authorities against these groups of narcoparamilitaries, the identification of the types of crime involved is based upon capture of their members,   extortion and threats, seizing of their drugs and weapons, businesses related to illegal mining, smuggling, lumber and land; links to politicians and members of the Armed Forces, murders, displacement and confrontations for land or for routes.

The territories of the narcoparamilitary complex, in the period after the demobilization of the AUC and the BCB, continue to be those propitious for drug trafficking, for money laundering, for smuggling, for weapons trafficking, for illegal mining, for land grabs and taking of areas with mining potential, for extortion or security services and control of territory for some megaprojects for mining or agro-industry purposes.

In some regions there is geographic congruence between guerrilla fronts and narcoparamilitary units.  This situation combines territorial disputes or disputes related to links in the drug trafficking chain where the guerrillas (FARC, ELN, EPL) establish relationships with campesinos who grow the illegal crops and charge them a percentage for protection. But there is also income through laboratories and for routes that they charge to drug traffickers or their agents.  (See justice and peace court decisions and reports by verdadabierta.)

The relation between these groups with the territories of the previous paramilitary structures (Catatumbo Bloc, AUC, Central Bolívar Bloc, Chief Pipintá, Nutibara Bloc, Martín Llanos, etc.) is direct, keeping in mind the role played by middle command paramilitaries who never demobilized ten years ago and of others who demobilized and reappeared as paramilitaries.  The mistakes in the policies of reintegration and the application of the laws of justice facilitate the re-composition of those groups in new settings. (Public Defender’s Office)

Eight years (2008 – 2015) of monitoring by Indepaz show that the narcoparamilitary groups throughout that period have been present in approximately 630 municipalities in the country.  The most revealing data item is the permanent presence of their activities during the last three years in 298 of those municipalities.

Attachment 1.  Maps showing the presence of the FARC, ELN, coca, and electoral risk
Attachment 2.  Tables in Excel by province and municipality (narcoparamilitaries)



Narcoparamilitary Groups


Presence of Narcoparamilitary Groups

Presence of Narcoparamilitary Groups

Presence of Narcoparamilitary Groups

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