Thank you, Adolfo Paz

The Cacique Nutibara Block in Medellin (known as BCN, for the acronym in Spanish) was the first group to demobilize. On November 25, 2003, 868 men and 10 women handed in 623 weapons. After three weeks in a retreat center, the desmobilizados returned to their neighborhoods.

The BCN was organized in 2001 by Diego Fernando Murillo, also known as Adolfo Paz and “Don Berna, the self-proclaimed Inspector General of the AUC, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Murillo has a long history in Medellin, beginning as one of the top drug traffickers with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, then as a leader of the Pepes (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) and the band of hitmen known as La Terraza.  Internal disputes within La Terraza, and their violent clashes with the Metro Block paramilitary group, led Murillo to organize the AUC’s BCN; he led the BCN’s efforts to consolidate the AUC take-over of Medellin from the Metro Block.  He also controlled a number of other paramilitary groups.

In Medellin in January 2005, NGO researchers reflected on the complex panorama of paramilitarism.  

Understanding what the paramilitaries are about is very difficult, they don’t a have a single identity. There are two extremes:  groups at the service of state policies, a state strategy and policy, part of the counterinsurgency programs of the state. The other extreme are autonomous groups that back their own interests.

The AUC – the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia — is a federation of groups, each with their particular characteristics.

The common factors are:  that they are inserted into local powers —  caudillos, gamonales, and commercial interests. They are at the service of the status quo, part of an authoritarian order. They are involved in illegal businesses, narcotrafficking, illegal gasoline, emeralds, smuggling.  They are linked to groups from the security forces and legal authorities and they act in an articulated way.

In an aggressive play for power, Don Berna/Adolfo Paz bought the BCN franchise, and that is how he became a leader in the autodefensas. He played that card to demonstrate his political capability. Thanks to his control, the city is at peace. It is a paramilitarized city. There is less need to recur to violence, but more fear and intimidation. More paramilitarism and less paramilitaries.

They took me to a barrio on one of the hillsides of Medellin, to show me the Christmas lights decorating the neighborhood, letting me take a picture out of the window of the cab.

It is like back in the old days of the Pablo and the Medellin Cartel, like 1987. They are paying for neighborhood events, the nativity scene, community parties.

The lights say: Thank you, Adolfo Paz, for the tranquility in Medellin.

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