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Colombia Renames Militant Group, Hopes No One Notices They Can’t Be Stopped

Photo: REUTERS/National Police/Handout

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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The Colombian government desperately renamed a notorious paramilitary group Monday in hopes of airbrushing the group’s violent image ahead of a peace deal with rival Marxist drug traffickers.

The paramilitary group has been informally called “Los Urabeños” since the late 1990s, and was first officially renamed by the government as “Clan Usuga” after their leader, Dario Antonio Usuga, in 2014. Now the Colombian government wants the media to refer to the paramilitaries as “Clan del Golfo,” (Spanish for The Gulf Clan), according to Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, in a desperate plan to make the government seem more effective.

The paramilitaries are infamous for their violent nature and are one of the dominant forces in Colombian drug trafficking. Clan del Golfo, is made up of the dissident remnants of United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym AUC). The AUC was a paramilitaries group partially formed by former members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel.

Clan del Golfo has so much clout in Colombian politics that it reportedly helped former president and now current opposition Senator Alvaro Uribe organize a massive political rally at the end of March. Uribe has ironically staked much of his political career on being tough on drug traffickers and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2009 for cooperation against drug trafficking.

The drug traffickers are set to grow even larger in their influence, as the Colombian government is wrapping up peace talks with Marxist drug trafficking group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym FARC). If peace talks between the government and FARC are successful, then Clan del Golfo will likely corner the Colombian cocaine market.

To more effectively combat the paramilitary group, the Colombian government gave the green light in May for a bombing campaign against the paramilitaries, according to ColombiaReports. Despite their powerful status, Clan del Golfo is looking to avoid bloodshed and join peace talks under the guise of being an armed political organization.

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