“Longing for Home” The Jamundí precedent
Sep 142006

Thanks to CIP Intern Mariam Khokhar for this quick summary of the latest (seventh) quarterly report from the OAS mission (MAPP-OEA) that is observing and verifying the paramilitary demobilization process in Colombia. The full report is available here as a Microsoft Word (.doc) file in Spanish.

International support for MAPP-OEA has increased. Governments that have contributed, or may soon contribute, financial or in-kind support to the OAS mission now include Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. The mission now has a total staff of eighty-five people.

Number of demobilized paramilitaries and weapons turned in. Since the initiation of dialogue with AUC in 2003, there have been 37 collective demobilizations involving 30,915 members of the group. From February to May 2006, there were 8 collective demobilizations which included 8,625 members. Groups that have yet to demobilize formally include parts of the Élmer Cárdenas bloc (Urabá) and the Cacique Pipintá bloc (Antioquia and Risaralda), and the entire Casanare Self-Defense Forces. The demobilized groups have turned in about one weapon for every two combatants. Sixty percent of the demobilized are concentrated in four northern Colombian departments: Antioquia (29%), Córdoba (14%), Cesar (9%) and Magdalena (8%).

Problems with the demobilization process. The OAS mission noted institutional shortcomings in the government’s attention to ex-combatants. The Colombian government’s Program for Reincorporation into Civilian Life (PRVC) contemplates a period of two years in which ex-combatants may access certain benefits. Yet 35% of ex-combatants have not accessed these institutional offers. The pace of demobilization has exhausted the PRVC’s response capacity. ("The PRVC is still in crisis, which puts at risk the long-term viability of the peace process.") The Mission finds shortcomings in the provision of health benefits to ex-members of the AUC and their immediate families. Only 47% of ex-combatants who have been in the system for more than 6 months have been entered into the government’s social security system. Psychosocial attention continues to be one of the PRVC’s weakest points, with only 12 percent of ex-combatants participating in workshops during the second quarter of 2006. The Mission also found that the focus on education was insufficient.

Employment of ex-paramilitaries. Many ex-paramilitaries have found short-term work as "Civic Auxiliaries" of the police (3,700) and coca-eradicators in Urabá and Córdoba (1,500). Unemployment remains a widespread problem.

Re-formation of paramilitary groups. The Mission has noted the appearance of new groups in the areas where demobilized ones operated. "Specific zones have seen possible rearmament and the appearance of armed groups who seek to present themselves as the so-called ‘new generation of paramilitarism.’" This phenomenon is not homogenous across the country, so one cannot adopt one sole interpretation of them. It appears to be taking the form of (a) re-grouping into criminal gangs that control communities and illicit activity; (b) segments of paramilitary blocs that have refused to demobilize; and (c) formation of new armed groups or strengthening of existing groups. A few examples:

  • In Norte de Santander, the Mission discovered the existence of illegal armed structures, located in key narcotrafficking corridors, that are operating along the lines of the former AUC Catatumbo Bloc.
  • In Nariño, the Mission is following the work of an illegal armed structure called "the New Generation," a group that seems to be growing, led by a former mid-level commander of the Liberators of the South Bloc.
  • In Córdoba, there are two armed structures. The first is located in Puerto Libertador y Montelíbano, while the second is based in Valencia y Tierralta.
  • In Guajira, there is one armed structure operating in the Bahía Portete zone, led by a former mid-level commander of the Northern Bloc.
  • In Bolívar, the Mission has observed the participation of demobilized individuals in criminal activities, threats, kidnappings, and generally, the disturbance of public order.

Arms caches. The Mission is also in the process of verifying information about arms not turned in during the demobilization of some AUC blocs. The army has found several clandestine arms caches belonging to demobilized AUC blocs.

Conclusion: This is a useful document, but it is ultimately just a brief, partial summary. The three months it covers have been some of the most tumultuous in the process so far, thanks in large part to a Constitutional Court decision striking down key parts of the "Justice and Peace" law – but one gets little sense from the report that the process has been passing through critical moments. In particular, we regret that the report did not include more information about:

  • Investigation and prosecution of crimes attributed to paramilitaries since 2003 that appear to have been cease-fire violations. If little progress has been made on cases like the 2005 Curumaní massacre or the 2004 murder of Kankuamo indigenous leader Freddy Arias – to name two of many – then the report should say so clearly.
  • The plans and preparations of the National Reparations and Reconciliation Commission’s plans and preparations.
  • The plans and preparations of the Peace and Justice Unit of the Attorney-General’s office.
  • The legal status and whereabouts of the top paramilitary leadership.
  • The fallout from the Constitutional Court’s decision on the Justice and Peace law.
  • The government’s ability to guarantee security in at least a few areas where demobilizations have occurred, including claims that guerrillas may be re-establishing a presence in some territories.
  • Localities, if any, where reintegration programs appear to be working – or at least working better than average – and whether this experience is replicable.
  • What should be the priorities for international donors right now. At this juncture, which aspects of the process most need financial support and international expertise? (Prosecutors? Reparations? Job training? Citizen security? What kind of aid for each?)
  • The map below, showing the 50 municipalities (counties) that concentrate 70 percent of ex-combatants, is interesting. The provision of this kind of statistical information is the most useful aspect of the report. This information is difficult to find elsewhere, and we encourage the Mission to increase transparency over the process by providing it in greater quantity.

4 Responses to “A quick look at the last OAS report on the AUC demobilization”

  1. jcg Says:

    Good to see some regular updates lately. I concur with the list of aspects that should have been more extensively discussed and included in the report.

  2. richtiger Says:

    As regards the lack of health benefits to former AUC members, I’m reminded of my time as a member of the Colombian social security system. I was quite impressed by my benefits until I went to fill a prescription and discovered that the free pharmacy simply didn’t carry the medication I needed.

    My impression is that there is frequently a wide gap in Colombia between policy and performance.

    I’m particulary concerned about the re-formation of paramilitary groups. If this should continue, the peace process will be seriously compromised.

  3. jcg Says:

    richtiger: And that impression wouldn’t be too far from the truth, although it is not necessarily due to malice but for plenty of other reasons, including incompetence, ignorance, lack of funds or simple bureaucratic red tape.

    There’s a fair variety of medications in the Obligatory Health Plan, but evidently it is quite far from a completely comprehensive collection (though some get added from time to time).

    As for paramilitarism, that is certainly a concern. I’ve read that, according to international precedents, it wouldn’t be unexpected for even an estimated 20 to 25% of the demobilized (excluding from that % those that didn’t demobilize and therefore don’t need to “re-form”) to get back to the war or simply into general criminal activities.

    The question, from that perspective, isn’t thinking about how to outright prevent that process altogether (which is unlikely to be workable, even if everything else was perfect), but rather minimizing it as much as possible. In other words, some amount of “re-formation” will continue to happen, even in the best case scenario.

  4. rainercale Says:

    “…some amount of “re-formation” will continue to happen, even in the best case scenario.”

    I would say that’s a mature observation, given that many ex-combatants are aguantando hambre and most are faced with offers to guard narcotrafficking interests for $3 million pesos/month and upwards.

    One ex-combatant recently told me that he has an open offer to guard interests in Valle for $6 million/month. Meanwhile, he is hungry and the Program is two weeks late with his payment this month.

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