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Cable 974: The Influence of Former Paramilitaries in Northern Colombia: Bolivar Department

Cable 974: The Influence of Former Paramilitaries in Northern Colombia: Bolivar Department

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Published by Andres
This is a 2006 US embassy report summarizing evidence of continuing violence and organized crime activity perpetrated by members of demobilized right wing paramilitary groups in the department of Bolivar in northern Colombia.
This is a 2006 US embassy report summarizing evidence of continuing violence and organized crime activity perpetrated by members of demobilized right wing paramilitary groups in the department of Bolivar in northern Colombia.

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Published by: Andres on Jul 03, 2012
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P 051716Z OCT 06FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9592C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 009217SUBJECT: EX-PARAS RETAIN INFLUENCE ON THE NORTH ATLANTIC COAST: A LOOK AT BOLIVAR DEPARTMENT
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood.Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)
-------SUMMARY-------
¶1. (C) The security situation has improved inBolivar Department since the paramilitariesdemobilized, but labor, Catholic Church, and localgovernment officials said ex-paramilitary influenceremains strong. Allegations of ex-paramilitary andFARC criminality are common. Cartagena was one ofthe only cities on the Atlantic Coast that lacked aparamilitary presence, but demobilizedparamilitaries are increasingly engaged in criminalactivities in the city. Still, the GOC is in theprocess of arresting and prosecuting recidivistparamilitaries and their supporters in the region.This report is the first in a series that focuseson the reinsertion process in what used to be theparamilitary's area of greatest influence, thenorth Atlantic coast. End summary.
 
 
------------------------------------------BOLIVAR DEPARTMENT: PROBLEMS STILL PERSIST------------------------------------------
¶2. (C) Department of Bolivar government, laborunion, and Church representatives said in earlySeptember that since the demobilization of theHeroes de Montes de Maria Bloc in July 2005, thesecurity situation has improved, but some problemspersist. Human Rights Ombudsman Arturo Zea saidroad security is better, kidnappings havedecreased, public forces presence has increased,and no massacres have been reported. Secretary ofInterior for Bolivar Department Cesar Pion saidmayors and displaced communities are returning totheir towns, and throughout the department there isan increase in traffic, tourism, livestock andagricultural production. Zea and Pion agreedgovernment presence has improved in the Department,but said much more needs to be done.¶3. (C) Government and Church representatives saidthey continue to receive complaints of ex-paramilitary influence in some towns and that thereis an increased FARC presence as well. The FARC istrying to control strategic areas previouslycontrolled by the paras. Zea said key narco-trafficking corridors are still being used. Newly-formed criminal groups--some composed of mainlydemobilized paramilitaries and others consisting ofcurrent and former paramilitaries and commoncriminals--operate in some areas. Pion said thegreatest FARC presence is in the municipalities of
 
Guamo, Maria la Baja, and San Juan Nepomuceno. Themilitary has clashed with the FARC; Pion hasreceived complaints from residents that themilitary and/or the FARC are preventing thedelivery of food. The situation is more complex inMontes de Maria and the southern part of Bolivardepartment where key corridors are disputed byillegal armed groups (IAGs). In addition to thecorridors, the southern part of the departmentcontains more illicit crops, gold mines, and theoil pipeline, which also attract the IAGs.4. (C) Labor union leaders charged that thedemobilization of paramilitaries is symbolic; thisis especially the case with the demobilization ofthe Heroes de Montes de Maria Bloc in Maria la Bajamunicipality led by Edward Cobos (AKA "DiegoVecino"), who turned himself in September and islocated at la Ceja. Central Labor Union's (CUT)Secretary General Esteban Barbosa claimeddemobilized paramilitaries still engage in illegalactivities. The increase of security cooperativesin the Department, in particular in Cartagena, wasattributed to ex-paramilitaries. These securitycooperatives exercise social and security controlin neighborhoods, and their modus operandi issimilar to paramilitary structures. The ex-paramilitaries are also engaged in loan sharking.¶5. (C) Zea said corruption is also a problem inthe department, adding that journalists arediscouraged from reporting on the phenomenon bylocal politicians. The only mayors that arereasonably effective are from Maria La Baja and SanJuan de Nepomuceno. The rest are linked to former

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