The False Reality of the Paramilitary “Demobilization”
(Colombia) (CCajar)

Martes 10 de octubre de 2006, por Prensa - Colectivo

Under the sponsorship of the Colombian State, paramilitarism was born, expanded and consolidated throughout the national territory. This reality is irrefutable and undeniable.

The False Reality of the Paramilitary “Demobilization”
(A Brief Introduction)

José Alvear Restrepo Lawyer’s Collective
(Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”)
Bogota, Colombia
April 2006

Under the sponsorship of the Colombian State, paramilitarism was born, expanded and consolidated throughout the national territory. This reality is irrefutable and undeniable. The State has provided paramilitarism with legal support [1] and senior government officials have defended the legitimacy of these organizations. [2]. Army manuals demonstrate this [3] and important functionaries also have become involved with paramilitary organizations. [4] Additionally, there also exists the State’s fraudulent inaction regarding these groups,T [5] as well as denunciations by members of the public force. [6]

In other words, paramilitarism is about the development of a State strategy that goes far beyond that of a counter-insurgency strategy. It is not merely a military response for it reaches far into the political, economic and social order. Paramilitarism has functioned for major economic interests, multinationals, drug trafficking and the violent dispossession of properties. It is about a clearly defined model of society and state. In order to achieve this, paramilitarism has counted on the unrestricted support of the political and economic elite. Fundamentally, its actions have targeted the civilian population. In particular, its victims have been the communities and persons taking on a critical stance or opposition to the establishment’s policies. To reach their objectives, paramilitaries have perpetrated massacres, ethnocides, genocides, magnicides, murder, torture, forced disappearance and forced displacement. In other words, there has been an endless chain of crimes against humanity.

Nevertheless, this massive amount of crimes has been covered up through an impunity, belonging to a policy meant to protect the victimizers, as well as to disregard the rights of society and victims to know the truth, obtain justice and receive comprehensive reparation. Even though international bodies have repeatedly recommended for concrete and effective actions to be taken to overcome impunity, the State has yet to comply. [7]
Within this context, the State has considerable responsibility. In order to establish the historical truth concerning the foundation and development of paramilitarism, Colombian society and the international community must unequivocately recognize the role the State has played. With this terror strategy, the State has not only caused immense and irreparable damage in the loss of life, but has also profoundly affected the legitimacy of the State itself, as well as the possibilities for constructing a society based on democratic principles that guarantee a lasting peace with social justice. Any process meant to establish the historical truth concerning paramilitarism that disregards the State’s responsibility will construct a process of impunity with immense and disastrous repercussions politically, socially, economically and culturally.

Within this panorama, the State, headed by president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, has initiated and carried out a process of “dialogue” with paramilitary groups to supposedly “demobilize them.” Nonetheless, there is a clear attempt to institutionalize these groups, as well as to legalize the drug-trafficking profits and wealth accumulated after dozens of years of dirty war against the Colombian population.

The so-called “dialogue” between the government and the paramilitaries is not about a political negotiation, nor a peace negotiation, nor a demobilization process, nor paramilitary dismantlement, nor even a process to overcome impunity. [8] It is not a political negotiation, because all political negotiations presume the existence of two antagonistic and distinct positions. In this case, the State and paramilitarism “have a common enemy, the same distinct social model, the same doctrine called ‘national security’, the same repressive tactics, an ongoing mutual collaboration between the two forces, the same rhetoric legitimizing the current system, the same mechanisms of impunity, the same justifications for armed action and the civilian population’s participation in this action, the same manner of stigmatizing social movements and non-capitalist political ideologies, as well as coordinating, combining and distributing legal and illegal actions meant to serve the same cause.” [9]
This process does not constitute a peace negotiation. “The logical foundation for a peace negotiation is the recognition of a conflict in which opposing forces confront each other on a daily basis for the defense of their cause. This is why it is said that peace is only negotiated between enemies and never between friends. According to what was stated previously concerning the principles and practices that have defended Colombian paramilitarism for the last 40 years, it can be concluded that there is no opposition between paramilitarism and the Colombian State’s security forces. Therefore, it is illogical to speak of a ‘peace process’ between the government and paramilitaries for there has never been a war between these two forces.” [10]

It is neither a demobilization process, nor a paramilitary dismantlement. [11] Paramilitarism is not merely an armed expression, rather it is a part of a very powerful superstructure involving all of the establishment and the different mafias. In this sense, “demobilized” paramilitarism is able to keep intact its economic, political, social and military power [12] This is why it is incorrect to sustain that the current process lead and fostered by the government is going to produce the demobilization and dismantlement of paramilitary forces. Additionally, the State, as well as the paramilitaries, continues to foster the involvement of the civilian population in the conflict. This ignores the principle of distinction, which is the essence of international humanitarian law. Indeed, in the regions where the demobilizations have theoretically occurred, paramilitarism maintains full control. [13]
For there not to be any doubts in this regard, “...days after the demobilization of the so-called Cacique Nutibara Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in December 2003, when questioned on the future relationship of his group with the military forces, as well as the political and economic sectors supporting his group, the then paramilitary boss Carlos Castaño replied: ‘In a very creole, very antioquian way, at last we’re going to stop being the lover, and instead be the wife!I [14]’ With these words, Castaño announced that the true orientation of the peace process was not to dismantle paramilitarism, rather legalize it and allow it to publicly and ‘legitimately’ exercise its control over society and the State. In other words, instead of its dismantlement, he meant for its institutionalization .” [15]Paramilitary boss alias Ernesto Baez has recently made similarly statements.

This process does not contribute to the struggle against impunity, or even to overcoming impunity. Rather, to the contrary, this process enthrones paramilitarism by leaving untouched those who have financed and promoted paramilitarism in Colombia. The State’s historic responsibility for paramilitary growth and consolidation also remains in total anonymity. [16] This questioned process leaves in total impunity international crimes committed by paramilitaries that have demobilized either individually or collectively. Additionally, by way of the Justice and Peace Law under the guise of guaranteeing truth, justice and reparation, [17] this process means to grant paramilitaries, who are not able to demobilize by way of law 782/02 and decree 128/03, inadequate and ridiculous sentences.


[1Decree 3398 of 1965, which was incorporated into national law by way of Law 48 of 1968, as well as decree 535 of 1993 and 356 of 1994, which established the civilian security cooperatives known as the Convivir

[2Ministers Rafael Samudio Molina and Arias Carrizosa, in addition to senior military commanders such as Harold Bedoya Pizarro, as well as others

[3See Resolution 005: "Regulation for Counter-Guerrilla Combat - EJC 3-10" from the Military Forces General Command, which created the "self-defense units" on April 9, 1969; the manual "General Instructions for Counter-Guerrilla Operations" from the Army General Command, which created the "Civilian-Military Committees" in 1979; the "ECJ-3-101 Manual" from the Army General Command, which ordered the creation of "self-defense units" on June 25, 1982; as well as the “Regulations for Counter-Guerrilla Combat - EJC-3-10" from the Military Forces General Command from 1987. The regulations include the civilian population as a part of the “counter-insurgent forces.”

[4As has been revealed by cases carried out in the criminal and disciplinary

[5he Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights “has heard senior army officers state that the paramilitary groups are not acting contrary to the Constitution and that, consequently, it is not the State’s duty to combat them.” Such situations shed light on the constraints on the State’s actions against paramilitarism, limiting them to public statements or the formulation of policies that are never implemented." See paragraph 111 from the United Nations document “E/CN.4/2000/11” from March 9, 2000. Likewise, the United Nations, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has repeatedly recognized that the State has not seriously nor effectively taken on the effective and real dismantlement of paramilitarism. In 1997, by way of presidential decree 2895, the government ordered the creation of a “search unit” to capture the paramilitary bosses. This unit never came into being and, of course, never functioned.

[6This footnote is taken from Federico Andreu’s expert witness testimony before the Inter-American Court concerning the Mapiripan massacre. “In his letter to the Minister of Defense in 1989, Lieutenant Colonel Luis Arsenio Bohórquez Montoya stated: ‘I did not need to create self-defense groups, because they already existed, were very well organized and had excellent results in the municipalities in the area of the Barbula Battalion. As a part of the national army policy directed by yourself, General Botero Restrepo, indicating that the national army with the support of the self-defense groups would preserve the order and recover the affected regions, I carried out my duties as the commanding officer in accordance to this strategy and by way of the corresponding tactics.’ In his denunciation before the Internal Affairs Agency (Procuraduría General de la Nación), Gilberto Cárdenas González, national police captain and chief of the judicial investigation and intelligence service (SIJIN) in Uraba from 1996 to 1998, pointed out that ‘the paramilitaries were created by the Colombian government to carry out the dirty work, which means to kill all persons, who, according to the army and police, are guerrilla members. But to do this, they had to create an illegally armed group so no one would suspect the involvement of the Colombian government and its military forces. This is how the paramilitaries are trained, sponsored and supported by the Colombian army and police. Members of army and police even patrol right with the paramilitaries.’ In his statement presented before the Internal Affairs Agency, retired captain Cárdenas referred to the ongoing and close links between General Rito Alejo del Río, the army’s 17th Brigade commander based in Uraba, with paramilitary groups in the region. Colonel Carlos Alfonso Velásquez Romero, second commander of the army’s 17th Brigade between 1995 and 1996, denounced before the Minister of Defense and, later, before the General Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía General de la Nación), the ongoing links between members of the 17th Brigade - including his commanding officer General Rito Alejo del Río - and paramilitaries.”

[7The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have been adamant in demanding the State to adopt measures to overcome impunity.

[8Please consult Father Javier Giraldo’s article “Five Lies Concerning the Process with the Paramilitaries” (Cinco falacias en el proceso con los paramilitares) published by FICA.



[11Not even Sergio Caramagna, the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) mission that is overseeing the demobilization, believes in the possibility of the dismantlement of the paramilitary structures. On February 24, 2005, during a follow-up session on the demobilization process, Caramangna stated: “There are even those who propose the total dismantlement of paramilitarism. These proposals are respectable, but let’s keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. These proposals are either terribly ingenuous or they have other purposes, which I do not dare to mention specifically.”

[12.Even more so when the sponsors, financial-backers and public servants involved in paramilitarism remain completely anonymous to the public at large.

[13For example, in the area of Tibu (Department of Northern Santander), the former leader of the Catatumbo paramilitary bloc became the leader of the “Black Eagles” and is currently detained for new crimes.

[14nterviewed in the newspaper El Tiempo from pages 1 to 5 on December 4, 2003.

[15“The Law of Impunity is the Engagement Ring for the Institutionalization of Paramilitarism.” Colombian Commission of Jurists. Bulletin #7.

[16In its December 2004 report on the demobilization process in Colombia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated that: “no efforts have yet been identified to establish the truth concerning what has happened and the degree of official involvement in paramilitarism.”

[17This law does not contemplate mechanisms, which assure truth, justice and reparation.


Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

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