Dozens of individuals in Colombia have been sentenced for crimes committed while serving under the banner of demobilized paramilitary groups, illustrating how peace agreements with armed actors are capable of meting out justice, albeit after long and complicated processes.
Arguing about artificial labels that help make sense of organized crime in Latin America may seem trivial. After all, the reality lurking beneath these labels -- bodies riddled with bullets, bank accounts stuffed with cash, and enough cocaine to sink a submarine -- is so tangible, so immediate for the people wrapped up in its unceasing vortex. But the terms and phrases used about by governments and news outlets carry their own type of power. They help shape public opinion, domestic security policies, and the legal limitations of international actors. As organized crime in the region adapts to new realities on the ground, it's imperative that our lexicon for it does so as well.
The release of Colombian underworld boss "Perra loca" from a US prison is adding to fears that a flood of recently freed drug lords and paramilitaries could have a violent impact on the country's already volatile criminal landscape.
Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces, prison authorities have joined them, while multiple government efforts to reform the system have failed.