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Thread: Paramilitary forces in Colombia's conflicts: literature?

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default Paramilitary forces in Colombia's conflicts: literature?

    Moderator's Note

    Originally this thread was called Paramilitary forces in ME & Latin America conflicts: literature? The author, Bjesse quickly altered his focus to Colombia, so rather belatedly I have amended the title (ends).


    Find works here and elsewhere by John Sullivan for Latin America.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-01-2013 at 12:06 PM. Reason: Add Mods Note
    Sam Liles
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Paramilitary forces in ME & Latin America conflicts: literature?

    New member Bjesse in his first post referred to a RFI, so moved here, which often gets a high success rate:
    If there is anyone with literature suggestions on paramilitary forces in middle-eastern/latin-american conflicts please let me know. I've been reading several books (like proxy warriors and the CIA paramilitary stories in Afghanistan) and several articles but any advice is more than welcome.
    davidbfpo

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    Thanks for the help selil and david! Much appreciated. I have decided I will focus on Colombian paramilitary forces. Mainly on the failed demobilization of the AUC and its paramilitary groups between 2003 and 2006. I am mainly interested in the differences between the paramilitary groups before and after the demobilization process.

    If im getting the literature right, the demobilization process of paramilitary forces in Colombia was quite a failure. The Colombian government seemed unable (or unwilling?) to effectively demobilize the AUC and its paramilitary forces. As a result, new paramilitary groups jumped in this vacuum after the demobilization and it seems that they are just as violent as before.

    I mainly want to focus and the 'how'. How was it possible that the Colombian government did not adequately took its chance to demobilize these paramilitary forces? or 'How do the contemporary paramilitaries compare to those before the demobilization process'

    Still open to suggestions on literature of course
    Last edited by Bjesse; 10-09-2013 at 02:51 PM.

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    Default Paramilitaries and para militaries and...

    The term paramilitary (and paramilitaries) covers a multitude of sins. First, all police forces but especially those with a SWAT capability are paramilitaries. In fact, the term was created to refer to forces like the French Gendarmerie and Italian Carbinieri.Second, the term refers to forces created by or sanctioned by the government, typically militias such as were the mainstay of the US military until the civil war. Good, relatively modern examples fro Latin America are theRondas Campesinas in Peru, the Defensa Civil in el Salvador, and the PACs in guatemala. A less benign variant is a paramilitary like ORDEN in pre-1979 el Salvador and similarly the Turbas Divinas in Sandinista Nicaragua. Finally, we come to groups like the AUC in Colombia whch were neither created by nor officially sanctioned by the government although they did often cooperate with the CO Army against the FARC.

    My understanding of the demobilization of the AUC is that it was largely successful with respect to those paramilitaries that accepted the leadership of the AUC. However, a number of the "member" groups did not accept the authority of the AUC leadership and refused to disband, although, again, my understanding is that it was a minority within the AUC. Please note my qualified language in this paragraph as i am less sure of its accuracy compared to my first paragraph.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    The term paramilitary (and paramilitaries) covers a multitude of sins. First, all police forces but especially those with a SWAT capability are paramilitaries. In fact, the term was created to refer to forces like the French Gendarmerie and Italian Carbinieri.Second, the term refers to forces created by or sanctioned by the government, typically militias such as were the mainstay of the US military until the civil war. Good, relatively modern examples fro Latin America are theRondas Campesinas in Peru, the Defensa Civil in el Salvador, and the PACs in guatemala. A less benign variant is a paramilitary like ORDEN in pre-1979 el Salvador and similarly the Turbas Divinas in Sandinista Nicaragua. Finally, we come to groups like the AUC in Colombia whch were neither created by nor officially sanctioned by the government although they did often cooperate with the CO Army against the FARC.

    My understanding of the demobilization of the AUC is that it was largely successful with respect to those paramilitaries that accepted the leadership of the AUC. However, a number of the "member" groups did not accept the authority of the AUC leadership and refused to disband, although, again, my understanding is that it was a minority within the AUC. Please note my qualified language in this paragraph as i am less sure of its accuracy compared to my first paragraph.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    Thank your for the information! I am really quite new to the topic and just getting started reading/informing myself. The term paramilitary itself is indeed quite ambiguous, and that is an issue when researching this topic. And like you said, the AUC was never really created by the government. However, in the past, the Colombian government allowed these paramilitary groups to be formed by landlords to protect them from being kidnapped by rebels. These groups became so strong however, that the government seemed unable to halt their growth.

    Regarding your part about the demobilization process: I agree with most points. I think that the AUC could never be considered a formal, well-developed organization capable of uniting all paramilitary groups in one front. Interests and goals of paramilitary groups were too varied for that I think. According to sources like HRW, the emergence of new/changed paramilitary groups after the demobilization was predictable, because the government failed to dismantle AUC criminal networks and their financial and political support. The government also failed to demobilize paramilitaries, because a lot of the people in the demobilization process were not paramilitaries at all, but civilians forced to go to these ceremonies and be 'demobilized' while not being part of a paramilitary group at all.

    The government had a great chance of demobilizing the paramilitaries but failed to do so in my opinion.

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    Default Sources....

    Bjesse, the AUC was not only formed by coffee growers and cattle ranchers but some groups were formed by the drug cartel leadership. Incidentally, there was some overlap between the cartels and coffee plantation owners and cattle ranchers, all of whic complicates the picture.

    On sources such as activist human rights groups, one needs to be careful since they have specifc policy agendas which color their work. Of the Human Rights groups, I have found WOLA to be most objective in their regional coverage. On the other side, be cautious with regard to the post Jim DeMint Heritage Foundation. Prior to his taking over last year Heritage had gotten very professional. Now, on Latin America, I'm not as sure since I don't know who is running their Americas program. AEI (also on the right) has a very good professional, Steve Johnson in charge of the region. Steve was with Heritage until the Bush Admin made him Dep Asst SECDEF for Western hemisphere.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Bjesse, the AUC was not only formed by coffee growers and cattle ranchers but some groups were formed by the drug cartel leadership. Incidentally, there was some overlap between the cartels and coffee plantation owners and cattle ranchers, all of whic complicates the picture.

    On sources such as activist human rights groups, one needs to be careful since they have specifc policy agendas which color their work. Of the Human Rights groups, I have found WOLA to be most objective in their regional coverage. On the other side, be cautious with regard to the post Jim DeMint Heritage Foundation. Prior to his taking over last year Heritage had gotten very professional. Now, on Latin America, I'm not as sure since I don't know who is running their Americas program. AEI (also on the right) has a very good professional, Steve Johnson in charge of the region. Steve was with Heritage until the Bush Admin made him Dep Asst SECDEF for Western hemisphere.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    Thanks for the comments John. It is true that these groups are often biased, but I do not think that necessarily means all their sources are biased as well. HRW knows how to dig. I definitely do not take their view for granted, but their sources are often credible and useful.
    WOLA has been a good source, thanks for that! I have also been reading stuff from the US Office on Colombia and the other suggestions you made. Its all quite useful

    Since I've been reading some more general literature on the conflict in Colombia I found out that it is one of the most violent (if not the most violent) conflict in the Western hemisphere. The government seems unable to control the paramilitaries, nor the rebels. I was wondering why there has never been an military intervention/peacekeeping operation realized to keep the fighting parties apart and realizing land restitution, as a large amount of people are displaced due to paramilitary and rebels?

    Maybe it's a bit naive to think like this, because I have the feeling that the Colombian government sees this conflict as purely domestic, but the situation is clearly extremely unstable. So why no peacekeeping operation?

    Just a thought I had, I'm curious how you think about this.

    Regards

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