Poll numbers show big shifts in Colombian popular opinion “Specious legal proceedings” against Iván Cepeda
Jul 182007

The OAS mission (MAPP-OEA) verifying paramilitary groups’ demobilization and reintegration issued its ninth quarterly report last Friday. (The report is available here as a Microsoft Word [.doc] file; it is also available, along with all previous MAPP-OEA reports, on the mission’s website.) It’s not clear why they call it a “quarterly” report when it’s only the second one published in the past 10 1/2 months. But never mind that.

The report is definitely worth a close read. It documents a complex picture of new armed groups forming throughout the country, most of them hybrids of former paramilitaries and current drug traffickers.

Some of these groups are led by commanders of the United Self-Defense Forces [AUC] who did not heed the government’s call to participate in the process, while others reflect an alliance between former paramilitaries and drug traffickers. Moreover, it has been noted that mid-level AUC commanders are heading new illegal armed units.

The report documents this phenomenon in many regions of the country; the problem of so-called “emerging groups” is scattered throughout Colombia’s geography. Here, using Google Maps, is a synthesis of all the regions of emerging-group activity mentioned in the report. Moving your mouse over each marker will call up relevant excerpts from the report.

The best sources on the “emerging groups” phenomenon are this and previous MAPP-OEA reports, along with recent documentation from the Colombian think-tank INDEPAZ and the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. See also the Colombian Defense Ministry’s reaction to this week’s press coverage of the OAS report.

Meanwhile, the OAS report also expresses urgent concerns about the Colombian government’s programs to re-integrate ex-combatants, which are still struggling badly despite a greater effort to unify planning under a “high commissioner for reintegration.”

[T]he status of the reintegration process is a source of serious concern on the part of OAS/MAPP. Delays in strengthening the institutions in charge of this process together with the limited operational capacity and coverage of the program at present are some of the factors that are hindering the socio-economic reintegration of demobilized combatants. A weak reintegration process in turn poses serious threats to the peace process as a whole, since it does nothing to prevent the recruitment of the demobilized fighters by new illegal units, which are being seen in different regions of the country. …

The still limited operational and coverage capacity of the Program is compounded by the difficulty in establishing clear statistics. In general, there is a problem that has to do with the discrepancy between the number of demobilized combatants reported by the Government and the number located by the Police. The information provided by some local officials is far removed from reality. There is no clarity regarding the number of beneficiaries, or their location or mobility.

The two most worrisome issues are the productive or work projects and humanitarian aid, which are key benefits for the demobilized combatants. In the first case, OAS/MAPP has verified that, as a rule, people in the communities continue to have the impression that the program does not provide for the socio-economic reintegration of the beneficiaries, and this in turn could be the reason why they tend to go back to illegal activities.

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