In 2011, illegal armed groups made up of former paramilitaries had a presence in 406 municipalities within 31 Colombian departments, that is, 147 more than in 2008, according to a report by a non-governmental organization.
According to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), “The Rastrojos [Stubble], Urabeños, Paisas, Águilas Negras [Black Eagles], and Erpac are the narco-paramilitary groups that have succeeded in consolidating their position throughout Colombia’s national territory, of which the first two have the greatest impact.”
In statements to AFP, Indepaz director Camilo González said that “the analysis allows us to demonstrate that these groups have continued reproducing since 2006,” when the so-called United Self-Defense Units of Colombia (extreme right-wing paramilitaries AUC) were demobilized.
González even noted that “in the last four years, there’s been a permanent presence of these groups, under different names, in 271 municipalities (out of the 1,100 that exist in Colombia).”
“They inherited the [drug-trafficking] business and the areas of influence and mobility of the groups demobilized in 2006. There was a mutation, and that allows us to talk about partial and even false demobilizations. There was fraud in turning over lists [of demobilized individuals] and weapons,” he explained.
The Indepaz report also notes the presence of leftist guerrilla groups and indicates that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are active in 249 municipalities; the National Liberation Army (ELN) in 65; and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) in seven.
The report highlights the fact that “within the logic of the conflict, the FARC and ELN, the two most important insurgent groups in the country, have occasionally joined forces to confront the narco-paramilitary groups, reclaiming rural areas in the Colombian south and southwest.”
Nevertheless, it adds that there are areas in the eastern part of the country, where “the existence of alliances with groups such as Erpac, in order to divide up the drug-trafficking business, is clear.”
González specified that even if the FARC has fallen back territorially over the last eight years, toward the country’s south and east, that rebel group (with around 9,000 armed men) has intensified its presence in urban sectors between 2010 and 2011, by way of militias.