State Building and Conflict Resolution in Colombia, 1986-1994

By Harvey F. Kline | Go to book overview

8
The Gaviria Policy for Paramilitary Groups

One might argue that the greatest conflict-resolution accomplishment of the government of César Gaviria was that the paramilitary groups came to be less powerful than before. This surely did not mean, however, that all or even most were in truce. And for the ones that did finally surrender, the procedure was made more difficult by their prior alliance with the drug traffickers.

That complicated peace-making process is the subject of this chapter, which will also show that the relationships between the government and the paramilitary groups remained unclear. Several themes show this, the first being the government's consideration of the groups. To repeat a statement from a member of the office of the presidency that was quoted in chapter 2: For the Colombian military, a self- defense group was one they themselves had armed, whereas a paramilitary group was one armed by someone else.1 Second, this chapter will show that even a paramilitary man who had been tried and convicted of a crime was freely circulating in Puerto Boyacá, at the least indicating that the government was not able to incarcerate a convicted criminal. Third, this chapter will show that even when paramilitary groups officially demobilized, not all members surrendered and not all weapons were turned in. Fourth, the chapter will show that the information that the office of the presidency had about paramilitary groups was very suspect. Finally, as was seen in chapter 7, the Gaviria government was willing to accept a tacit alliance with a known paramilitary leader in its attempts to capture Pablo Escobar. Hence the conclusion that this was a success for the Gaviria government must be tempered.2

-143-

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