Showing posts tagged as "ERPAC"

Showing posts tagged ERPAC

12 Jun
Pijarbey’s Story – Or Why it is so Hard to End Violence in Colombia? | International Crisis Group 
8 June 2012 | by Christian Voelkel 
When Martin Farfán was captured in December 2009, hopes were high that violence would fall in one of Colombia’s most dangerous regions. By that time, Farfán, alias “Pijarbey”, was second-in-command of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), a 700-strong illegal armed group that controlled drug trafficking and sowed terror in the country’s vast Eastern Plains.
Less than four years later, hopes have been dashed that his arrest would fundamentally change anything. It is now clear that the only way for the government to stop the violence is to complement its increasing law enforcement capacities with better policies to dismantle groups such as ERPAC, prevent their rearmament and protect victims.
When Pijarbey was arrested, all seemed to go according to plan, however. His detention drew widespread media attention, and police basked in their success, hailing the operation as one of the most important blows to organised crime in Colombia’s history. Pijarbey’s capture also marked the beginning of ERPAC’s decline. A year later, in December 2010, police killed Cuchillo (“Knife”), ERPAC´s notorious leader who had eluded authorities several times before, largely thanks to his contacts with security forces. In the same operation, police also captured Loco Harold, the group’s second-in-command at that time.
Without this trio, ERPAC was weakened. Caracho, who succeeded Cuchillo, could not maintain the group’s cohesion. He also quickly lost the backing of Loco Barrera, Colombia´s most powerful drug-trafficker, after ERPAC failed to protect a massive cocaine laboratory belonging to Barrera. The triumph for security forces seemed complete in December 2011 when Caracho turned himself in, facing the choice between being captured or killed. More than 270 fighters followed his example and laid down their arms. ERPAC’s demise seemed closer than ever.
Caracho’s surrender appeared to vindicate the government’s strategy in the fight against armed groups. ERPAC is one of five illegal armed groups that surged after right-wing paramilitaries demobilised in 2006. Since then they have become one of Colombia’s top security challenges. The groups, which the government insists are ordinary criminal groups , or “Bacrim” by their Spanish acronym – play a major role in the illicit drug economy and other organised criminal activities. But reflecting their paramilitary legacy, they have also been responsible for mass displacements, sexual violence and child recruitment, and benefit from close ties to regional and local elites as well as the security forces. President Juan Manuel Santos took tougher action, but until the ERPAC surrender, there was little evidence that the clampdown would truly weaken the groups.
But the surrender did not prove to be the last nail in ERPAC’s coffin, as the government had hoped. ERPAC members who did not turn themselves in simply re-organised in two competing armed groups. With a combined strength of 600 fighters, more than double the number of those who surrendered, these factions show no sign of cracking any time soon. One of these groups is led reportedly by somebody with an intimate knowledge of the Eastern Plains: Pijarbey. By coincidence, he was released in January 2012, just a month after Caracho had surrendered. Despite his importance and paramilitary past, he was sentenced to just four years for conspiracy and good behaviour in prison saw him released after three years. And when that day came, Pijarbey lost no time in returning to the Eastern Plains to claim back his place. A new cycle of violence had begun.
It is not hard to see what fuels ERPAC’s criminal activity. Despite a decade of aggressive counter drug-policies, the Eastern Plains remain important drug-cultivation and trafficking zones, not least because of the access to neighboring Venezuela. Armed groups also control mining projects and they displace people to claim land needed for extensive agro-industrial projects. At the same time, there is no shortage of recruits from a region which has little in the way of a formal economy but a long tradition of armed groups. The region is also a stronghold of FARC guerrillas.
Tackling these problems will take years. The state must beef up its civilian engagement, rather than just its military presence. Education and vocational training will help foster a viable local economy and discourage would-be recruits. Local politics and security forces must also be rigorously purged of their links to drug-traffickers and illegal armed groups.
But equally important, the government must implement a credible policy for dismantling groups like ERPAC and reintegrating fighters into civilian life. This should start with ending impunity. More often than not, leaders such as Pijarbey get away with short prison terms, while aggravated crimes often go unpunished. Rank and file members not responsible for serious crimes could also be encouraged to help dismantle corrupt networks through lighter sentencing.
The executive must also assume greater leadership instead of outsourcing responsibility for surrendering members to the judiciary. The government must ensure that victims of ERPAC and similar groups are compensated on an equal footing with victims of guerrilla groups and demobilised paramilitaries. It should also do more to stop captured fighters rearming once they leave prison. This should include giving rank-and-file members access to basic benefits through programmes run by presidency´s reintegration agency ACR, provided they meet strict criteria of eligibility.
Over the next few months, police could very well recapture Pijarbey. But without a better approach to dismantling the groups and their corrupt support networks, communities in the Eastern Plains will remain prey to the violence that has plagued the region for more than 60 years. And the next chapter in the Pijarbey story will just be a matter of time.
READ ARTICLE (Crisis Group)
Photo: luismonarrez73/YouTube

Pijarbey’s Story – Or Why it is so Hard to End Violence in Colombia? | International Crisis Group 

8 June 2012 | by Christian Voelkel 

When Martin Farfán was captured in December 2009, hopes were high that violence would fall in one of Colombia’s most dangerous regions. By that time, Farfán, alias “Pijarbey”, was second-in-command of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), a 700-strong illegal armed group that controlled drug trafficking and sowed terror in the country’s vast Eastern Plains.

Less than four years later, hopes have been dashed that his arrest would fundamentally change anything. It is now clear that the only way for the government to stop the violence is to complement its increasing law enforcement capacities with better policies to dismantle groups such as ERPAC, prevent their rearmament and protect victims.

When Pijarbey was arrested, all seemed to go according to plan, however. His detention drew widespread media attention, and police basked in their success, hailing the operation as one of the most important blows to organised crime in Colombia’s history. Pijarbey’s capture also marked the beginning of ERPAC’s decline. A year later, in December 2010, police killed Cuchillo (“Knife”), ERPAC´s notorious leader who had eluded authorities several times before, largely thanks to his contacts with security forces. In the same operation, police also captured Loco Harold, the group’s second-in-command at that time.

Without this trio, ERPAC was weakened. Caracho, who succeeded Cuchillo, could not maintain the group’s cohesion. He also quickly lost the backing of Loco Barrera, Colombia´s most powerful drug-trafficker, after ERPAC failed to protect a massive cocaine laboratory belonging to Barrera. The triumph for security forces seemed complete in December 2011 when Caracho turned himself in, facing the choice between being captured or killed. More than 270 fighters followed his example and laid down their arms. ERPAC’s demise seemed closer than ever.

Caracho’s surrender appeared to vindicate the government’s strategy in the fight against armed groups. ERPAC is one of five illegal armed groups that surged after right-wing paramilitaries demobilised in 2006. Since then they have become one of Colombia’s top security challenges. The groups, which the government insists are ordinary criminal groups , or “Bacrim” by their Spanish acronym – play a major role in the illicit drug economy and other organised criminal activities. But reflecting their paramilitary legacy, they have also been responsible for mass displacements, sexual violence and child recruitment, and benefit from close ties to regional and local elites as well as the security forces. President Juan Manuel Santos took tougher action, but until the ERPAC surrender, there was little evidence that the clampdown would truly weaken the groups.

But the surrender did not prove to be the last nail in ERPAC’s coffin, as the government had hoped. ERPAC members who did not turn themselves in simply re-organised in two competing armed groups. With a combined strength of 600 fighters, more than double the number of those who surrendered, these factions show no sign of cracking any time soon. One of these groups is led reportedly by somebody with an intimate knowledge of the Eastern Plains: Pijarbey. By coincidence, he was released in January 2012, just a month after Caracho had surrendered. Despite his importance and paramilitary past, he was sentenced to just four years for conspiracy and good behaviour in prison saw him released after three years. And when that day came, Pijarbey lost no time in returning to the Eastern Plains to claim back his place. A new cycle of violence had begun.

It is not hard to see what fuels ERPAC’s criminal activity. Despite a decade of aggressive counter drug-policies, the Eastern Plains remain important drug-cultivation and trafficking zones, not least because of the access to neighboring Venezuela. Armed groups also control mining projects and they displace people to claim land needed for extensive agro-industrial projects. At the same time, there is no shortage of recruits from a region which has little in the way of a formal economy but a long tradition of armed groups. The region is also a stronghold of FARC guerrillas.

Tackling these problems will take years. The state must beef up its civilian engagement, rather than just its military presence. Education and vocational training will help foster a viable local economy and discourage would-be recruits. Local politics and security forces must also be rigorously purged of their links to drug-traffickers and illegal armed groups.

But equally important, the government must implement a credible policy for dismantling groups like ERPAC and reintegrating fighters into civilian life. This should start with ending impunity. More often than not, leaders such as Pijarbey get away with short prison terms, while aggravated crimes often go unpunished. Rank and file members not responsible for serious crimes could also be encouraged to help dismantle corrupt networks through lighter sentencing.

The executive must also assume greater leadership instead of outsourcing responsibility for surrendering members to the judiciary. The government must ensure that victims of ERPAC and similar groups are compensated on an equal footing with victims of guerrilla groups and demobilised paramilitaries. It should also do more to stop captured fighters rearming once they leave prison. This should include giving rank-and-file members access to basic benefits through programmes run by presidency´s reintegration agency ACR, provided they meet strict criteria of eligibility.

Over the next few months, police could very well recapture Pijarbey. But without a better approach to dismantling the groups and their corrupt support networks, communities in the Eastern Plains will remain prey to the violence that has plagued the region for more than 60 years. And the next chapter in the Pijarbey story will just be a matter of time.

READ ARTICLE (Crisis Group)

Photo: luismonarrez73/YouTube

8 Jun
Colombia risks ‘failure’ in demobilization of violent groups: Report | Colombia Reports
By Christian Leonard
The demobilization of neo-paramilitary groups in Colombia “risks going down as a failure,” said a report published Friday by the International Crisis Group(ICG), an NGO specializing in the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts worldwide.
The report, entitled “Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups(NIAG): Lessons from a Surrender” referred to the December 2011 demobilization of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), which was made up of former right-wing paramilitary groups.
According to the report, “Only a fraction of the group took part [in the surrender]; leaders may be getting away with short prison sentences; and the underlying criminal and corrupt structures will likely remain untouched(…) The impact on conflict dynamics has been limited.”
FULL ARTICLE (Colombia Reports)
Photo: El Espectador

Colombia risks ‘failure’ in demobilization of violent groups: Report | Colombia Reports

By Christian Leonard

The demobilization of neo-paramilitary groups in Colombia “risks going down as a failure,” said a report published Friday by the International Crisis Group(ICG), an NGO specializing in the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts worldwide.

The report, entitled “Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups(NIAG): Lessons from a Surrender” referred to the December 2011 demobilization of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), which was made up of former right-wing paramilitary groups.

According to the report, “Only a fraction of the group took part [in the surrender]; leaders may be getting away with short prison sentences; and the underlying criminal and corrupt structures will likely remain untouched(…) The impact on conflict dynamics has been limited.”

FULL ARTICLE (Colombia Reports)

Photo: El Espectador

After Failed Demobilization, ERPAC Factions Join Colombia’s Larger War | In Sight
By Sibylla Brodzinsky
While a Colombian court handed down the first sentences for members of neo-paramilitary group ERPAC who surrendered in December, remnants of the gang are fighting for land and drug routes in the Eastern Plains, and may be teaming up with bigger criminal interests.
Some 267 members of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) surrendered in December, led by Jose Eberto Lopez, alias “Caracho.” Colombian officials were caught off guard, unprepared to process them legally, so the vast majority were released hours after they turned themselves in.
About 80 percent of them have since been recaptured, but most are facing charges no more serious than criminal conspiracy, which carries sentences between eight and 18 years, despite the fact that Caracho and his group could be responsible for 1,200 murders in three Colombian provinces. Because most have confessed to lesser crimes, their sentences could be halved.
On May 30, 43 members of the ERPAC were sentenced to four years and five months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 900 million pesos (about $500,000) each, after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy. Other similar convictions are expected to follow.
When Caracho, who presented himself as the ERPAC’s top leader following the 2010 death of Pedro Oliverio Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” offered to demobilize with his men, he was seeking the same benefits that had been granted to paramilitary fighters under the Justice and Peace process. This offered suspended sentences, monthly stipends and vocational training to the rank and file. But the government of Juan Manuel Santos declared that its policy for the new illegal armed groups that emerged after the paramilitary demobilizations between 2003 and 2006, such as the ERPAC, was to deal with them solely through the courts, without offering any benefits for laying down their arms.
This means that many of the convicts, disgruntled by the lack of benefits, and who could actually be released from prison before serving their full sentences, with time off for good behavior and studies, may be prime candidates to return to the ranks of the remaining ERPAC factions.
In fact, the men who demobilized with Caracho apparently represent only a fraction of the total fighting force of the ERPAC. The remaining estimated 560 members have split into two groups: the Meta Bloc and Libertadores de Vichada, according to a report by the International Crisis Group (see pdf, below).
FULL ARTICLE (In Sight)
Photo: In Sight

After Failed Demobilization, ERPAC Factions Join Colombia’s Larger War | In Sight

By Sibylla Brodzinsky

While a Colombian court handed down the first sentences for members of neo-paramilitary group ERPAC who surrendered in December, remnants of the gang are fighting for land and drug routes in the Eastern Plains, and may be teaming up with bigger criminal interests.

Some 267 members of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) surrendered in December, led by Jose Eberto Lopez, alias “Caracho.” Colombian officials were caught off guard, unprepared to process them legally, so the vast majority were released hours after they turned themselves in.

About 80 percent of them have since been recaptured, but most are facing charges no more serious than criminal conspiracy, which carries sentences between eight and 18 years, despite the fact that Caracho and his group could be responsible for 1,200 murders in three Colombian provinces. Because most have confessed to lesser crimes, their sentences could be halved.

On May 30, 43 members of the ERPAC were sentenced to four years and five months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 900 million pesos (about $500,000) each, after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy. Other similar convictions are expected to follow.

When Caracho, who presented himself as the ERPAC’s top leader following the 2010 death of Pedro Oliverio Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” offered to demobilize with his men, he was seeking the same benefits that had been granted to paramilitary fighters under the Justice and Peace process. This offered suspended sentences, monthly stipends and vocational training to the rank and file. But the government of Juan Manuel Santos declared that its policy for the new illegal armed groups that emerged after the paramilitary demobilizations between 2003 and 2006, such as the ERPAC, was to deal with them solely through the courts, without offering any benefits for laying down their arms.

This means that many of the convicts, disgruntled by the lack of benefits, and who could actually be released from prison before serving their full sentences, with time off for good behavior and studies, may be prime candidates to return to the ranks of the remaining ERPAC factions.

In fact, the men who demobilized with Caracho apparently represent only a fraction of the total fighting force of the ERPAC. The remaining estimated 560 members have split into two groups: the Meta Bloc and Libertadores de Vichada, according to a report by the International Crisis Group (see pdf, below).

FULL ARTICLE (In Sight)

Photo: In Sight

Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups: Lessons from a Surrender
Bogotá/Brussels  |   8 Jun 2012
The surrender of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) exposed justice system and government strategy shortcomings that unless corrected will hamper efforts to combat groups which are now top security challenges.
“Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups: Lessons from a Surrender”, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the first-ever surrender, at the end of last year, by one of these NIAGs and paramilitary successors and analyses the policy flaws that it exposed.  Only a fraction of the group took part; leaders may be getting away with short prison sentences; underlying criminal structures, including corrupt networks that reach into the political and business worlds, will likely remain untouched; and the impact on conflict dynamics has been limited.
“On the ground, the surrender has achieved little else than stoking confrontations between competing groups that want to take over what ERPAC has lost”, says Christian Voelkel, Crisis Group’s Colombia Analyst. “It has started a new cycle of violence in ERPAC’s eastern plains strongholds, rather than laying the basis for security”.
ERPAC exercised strict control in its operational area and was responsible for the killing of community leaders, displacements, child recruitment and sexual violence. But it kept its hold also thanks to substantial links to regional and local elites, as well as parts of the security forces. Considering such groups criminal organisations (BACRIMs in the Spanish acronym) rather than parts of the armed internal conflict, the government has long insisted that fighters cannot benefit from transitional justice or reintegration measures and that their only option is criminal prosecution. But the judicial system is ill-equipped to handle a collective surrender that must balance the competing needs of encouraging NIAG members to give up arms while guaranteeing victims’ rights to justice, truth and reparation.
The government needs to correct these shortcomings by implementing an explicit surrender policy.  Boosting the capacities of prosecuting institutions should be the core of the policy, but it also needs to assume more leadership, not put all responsibility on the judicial system. It should ensure that NIAG victims have access to the benefits extended to victims of the guerrillas and the paramilitaries and also make basic reintegration benefits available to former fighters in an effort to prevent them from resuming their old ways.
“Dismantling the NIAGs and doing so while avoiding impunity, requires closing down also their corrupt networks, guaranteeing victims’ rights and preventing rearmament, in addition to punishing individual crimes”, says Silke Pfeiffer, Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes Project Director. “A credible commitment from the government that it is serious about doing so – that it is taking a more encompassing approach to their surrenders – could also become a crucial part of wider guarantees ahead of possible peace talks with the guerrillas”.
FULL REPORT 

Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups: Lessons from a Surrender

Bogotá/Brussels  |   8 Jun 2012

The surrender of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) exposed justice system and government strategy shortcomings that unless corrected will hamper efforts to combat groups which are now top security challenges.

Dismantling Colombia’s New Illegal Armed Groups: Lessons from a Surrender”, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the first-ever surrender, at the end of last year, by one of these NIAGs and paramilitary successors and analyses the policy flaws that it exposed.  Only a fraction of the group took part; leaders may be getting away with short prison sentences; underlying criminal structures, including corrupt networks that reach into the political and business worlds, will likely remain untouched; and the impact on conflict dynamics has been limited.

“On the ground, the surrender has achieved little else than stoking confrontations between competing groups that want to take over what ERPAC has lost”, says Christian Voelkel, Crisis Group’s Colombia Analyst. “It has started a new cycle of violence in ERPAC’s eastern plains strongholds, rather than laying the basis for security”.

ERPAC exercised strict control in its operational area and was responsible for the killing of community leaders, displacements, child recruitment and sexual violence. But it kept its hold also thanks to substantial links to regional and local elites, as well as parts of the security forces. Considering such groups criminal organisations (BACRIMs in the Spanish acronym) rather than parts of the armed internal conflict, the government has long insisted that fighters cannot benefit from transitional justice or reintegration measures and that their only option is criminal prosecution. But the judicial system is ill-equipped to handle a collective surrender that must balance the competing needs of encouraging NIAG members to give up arms while guaranteeing victims’ rights to justice, truth and reparation.

The government needs to correct these shortcomings by implementing an explicit surrender policy.  Boosting the capacities of prosecuting institutions should be the core of the policy, but it also needs to assume more leadership, not put all responsibility on the judicial system. It should ensure that NIAG victims have access to the benefits extended to victims of the guerrillas and the paramilitaries and also make basic reintegration benefits available to former fighters in an effort to prevent them from resuming their old ways.

“Dismantling the NIAGs and doing so while avoiding impunity, requires closing down also their corrupt networks, guaranteeing victims’ rights and preventing rearmament, in addition to punishing individual crimes”, says Silke Pfeiffer, Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes Project Director. “A credible commitment from the government that it is serious about doing so – that it is taking a more encompassing approach to their surrenders – could also become a crucial part of wider guarantees ahead of possible peace talks with the guerrillas”.

FULL REPORT