Paramilitaries are present in 27 out of 32 Colombian Departments

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Source: Contagio Radio / The Dawn News / April 6, 2016. Although the Ombudsman himself has assured that in 27 of the 32 Colombian departments there is paramilitary presence, the Minister of Defense, Luis Carlos Villegas said that this is nothing more than a ghost invented by FARC to delay the peace process. Guerrillas responded that this fact is “an irrefutable reality that was just thrown into Colombian people’s face”.

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In turn, on Tuesday, in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, social organizations demonstrated the existence and strengthening of paramilitary structures. As an example, Danilo Rueda, member of the Commission for Justice and Peace, reviewed the violent actions that took place during the recent armed strike declared by the Gaitanistas Self-Defense Group, which exercised paramilitary control of 82 districts of Buenaventura (despite the constant militarization of the municipality), the presence of more than 300 armed paramilitaries in Bajo Atrato and the free movement of at least 200 armed men dressed in camouflage in Putumayo a few meters away from a military base financed by the United States.

According to the Ombudsman, in the regions of Cauca, Santander, Putumayo, Antioquia, Arauca, Atlántica, Chocó, Córdoba, Cundinamarca, Meta, Norte de Santander, Sucre, Sur de Bolivar and Buenaventura, actions of paramilitary violence have been reported during the first three months of 2016. These regions match the key departments and municipalities for the implementation of the peace accords.

The peace delegation of the FARC has also responded to the Minister of Defense, by affirming that the violent actions of the paramilitary groups have a clear message: “intimidating friends of the political solution, showing the type of country that they want once that the armed insurgency disappears” and quoted the official report Basta Ya [It’s Enough], which states that, between 2003 and 2012, when these paramilitary groups had allegedly already been demobilized, 2.7 million Colombians were displaced and dispossessed of their lands.

Moreover, peasants who claim for their lands in the Middle Magdalena, denounce that they are frightened by the persistence of paramilitary groups who oppose the restitution of lands and stated that the situation worsened since César Augusto Castro Pacheco, alias ‘Tuto Castro’, former paramilitary leader, remains under house detention.

In this context, which was not only evidenced by the FARC but also by social organizations, by the Ombudsman and the Center of Historical Memory, the peace delegation guerrilla said it was an “insult” that Minister Villegas called the force of paramilitary groups as “ghosts”. “This can not be accepted passively by any decent person living in the country”, said the FARC.

Finally, the statement concludes by emphasizing the importance that the Havana talks agreement on paramilitarism and Security Guarantees are finally concretized. “The message must be clear to the country and the world. With paramilitary groups, with crimes and attacks, threats and terror, peace can not materialize. These are not tactics for delaying, as the Defense Minister said. It’s about finally building a different, democratic and fair country”, the statement concludes.

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