Monday, February 28, 2011

The New Bands - Same old Thing?

Members of the 'new bands,' many of whom are ex-paras. (Photo: El Tiempo)

El Tiempo published this big report Sunday about the emergence of 'nuevas bandas' - criminal bands composed of ex-members of supposedly demobilized paramilitary organizations.

According to the newspaper, these new criminal organizations have displaced more peasants than the FARC and ELN guerrillas, as well as carried out more violent attacks than both guerrilla groups combined.

For some reason, I don't feel surprised. According to lots of reports, the paramilitary demobilization was a sham, and the groups continued operating in many remote regions. How could it be different? The paramilitary leaders generally entered into negotiations with the government only because they expected to receive a short, comfortable 'detention' and then retire comfortably on their ill-gotten millions. (In fact, many of them are instead in U.S. prisons, but their organizations continue.)

A narco-submarine (Photo: El Tiempo)
Meanwhile, back in the regions where the paramilitaries operated, the same forces which gave rise to them haven't changed: ranchers, businesses and others still fear the guerrillas and seek armed protection. At the same time, lots of illegal drug money flowing thru the region finances violent outlaw groups.

The new bands, however, seem to lack the paramilitaries' pseudo-fascist political ideology.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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