AUC

Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia − Colombia

The AUC—commonly referred to as the paramilitaries—is an umbrella organization formed in April 1997 to consolidate most local and regional paramilitary groups each with the mission to protect economic interests and combat FARC and ELN insurgents locally. During 2002, the AUC leadership dissolved and then subsequently reconstituted most of the organization, claiming to be trying to purge it of the factions most heavily involved in narcotrafficking. The AUC is supported by economic elites, drug traffickers, and local communities lacking effective government security and claims its primary objective is to protect its sponsors from insurgents. It is adequately equipped and armed and reportedly pays its members a monthly salary.

Activities

AUC operations vary from assassinating suspected insurgent supporters to engaging guerrilla combat units. AUC political leader Carlos Castano has claimed that 70 percent of the AUC's operational costs are financed with drug-related earnings, the rest from“donations” from its sponsors. Since December 2002, the paramilitary groups under Carlos Castano’s influence have adopted a cease-fire and are exploring peace negotiations with Bogota. The AUC generally avoids actions against US personnel or interests.

Strength

Estimated 6,000 to 8,150, including former military and insurgent personnel.

Location/Areas of Operation

AUC forces are strongest in the northwest in Antioquia, Cordoba, Sucre, and Bolivar Departments. Since 1999, the group demonstrated a growing presence in other northern and southwestern departments. Clashes between the AUC and the FARC insurgents in Putumayo in 2000 demonstrated the range of the AUC to contest insurgents throughout Colombia

External Aid

None.
 
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