Recent reports warn that one of Colombia’s biggest criminal groups may be recruiting dissident guerrilla fighters, another indication that new actors are moving in on criminal operations formerly controlled by the guerrillas.
Colombian Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez stated on January 25 that the crime group known as the Urabeños is offering a salary of 1.8 million Colombian pesos (equivalent to about $600) to dissidents of the demobilizing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), according to El Heraldo.
Martínez warned that the Urabeños appeared to be attempting to forge an alliance with FARC dissidents in the northern parts of Antioquia department in order to take control of the guerrilla group’s former drug trafficking and illegal mining operations, reported El País. The attorney general said that the Urabeños are also attempting to move in on these illegal industries in the departments of Bolívar and Córdoba.
Following the signing of a November 2016 peace accord, the FARC leadership have struggled to ensure compliance with the provisions of the deal by all of the guerrilla group’s members. Several important leaders have rejected the agreement, and for months indications have surfaced suggesting many FARC fighters are joining up with existing criminal groups or even forming new ones.
According to the peace agreement with the FARC, every demobilized member will receive approximately 18 million pesos ($6,100) over a 24 month period. In comparison, the figure put forth by Martínez suggests that a dissident FARC member could make 48 million pesos ($16,300) in the same period of time by joining up with the Urabeños.
However, the Urabeños may be building relationships not only with the FARC, but also with elements of the Colombian armed forces. Martínez added that authorities will investigate possible military collusion with the Urabeños in Antioquia, according to El Espectador. These allegations were voiced by social leaders who claim that illegal miners have access to an explosive substance that is distributed solely by the government-controlled Indumil defense company.
InSight Crime Analysis
The comments by Colombia’s attorney general offer an example of the financial incentives for FARC dissidents to join organized crime. Coupled with concerns that the government may not come through with the social and economic rehabilitation programs planned by the peace agreement, these financial incentives may lead to further desertion from the mobilization process and worsen already high levels of dissidence.
Moreover, coupled with the allegations of military collusion, the recruitment of dissidents provides yet another sign of the Urabeños’ opportunistic attempt to expand their reach over previously FARC-controlled illicit economies, this time in Antioquia.
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The government recently admitted that the Urabeños are attempting to take over former FARC operations in a January 24 press release from the Interior Ministry, a risk that had been pointed out during the peace talks. While estimates vary greatly, the FARC’s drug earnings are calculated to have been worth several hundred million dollars a year, providing the Urabeños with a financial incentive of their own to take over the guerrilla group’s share of the drug trade.