The paras are back ... did they ever leave?
They are known for the fear they inspire and for the serious human rights abuses they commit.
He said he had to change his name several times. From rooster, to Granade and to whatever it would keep him safe.
I met him in a town of Medellin. He is a commander of a group known as the Paisas, they are among the new bands in Colombia that control the drug trafficking business and that, in some areas of the country, fight against left-wing guerillas.
In the past they were known as paramilitary groups, now its not yet clear what they have become. I am writing this because he did not want to give us an interview on camera.
So Rooster was a member of the AUC, in English it stands for the Self defence Units of Colombia. Around 30,000 “paras”, as they are known, demobilised in 2006. They were known for the fear they inspired and for the serious human rights abuses they committed. Playing football with the head of their victims was one of the acts they were known for.
So like many others Rooster did not demobilise. He started fighting when he was around 12 years old, he was a killer for the drug baron Pablo Escobar and until today continues to command hundreds of men who are mostly involved in the drug trade, but also play a big role in Colombia’s political life.
TRUE the AUC do not exist anymore, but its former members continue to be very active.
Recently Human Rights Watch spoke about the "heirs" of the paramilitary forces in Colombia and how these illegal groups continue to exist. The Paisas, the Black Eagles, Los Machos, Los Rastrojos ... all groups that fight for control of the drugs trade but also who force civilians living in the area they control to do as they command.
In the last legislative elections, a party known as the PIN became the fourth political force in the country. Some of its members are friends or relatives of politicians who are now in jail for their links to illegal organisations. Many of those politicians belong to President Alvaro Uribe’s party .
President Uribe has portrayed the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) as the country’s main enemy. But they are not the only ones. The drugs trade, corruption and illegal armed groups continue to terrorise Colombians every day.
Rooster told me he was hoping to put an end to the fighting that continues to exist in Colombia. He is a man who puts his life on the line every day. But he also says that what he calls "classy people" are the ones who continue to profit from war, from drugs and from people’s suffering. They are the ones who buy cheap land when farmers abandon it because of the fighting and the ones that allow drug trafficking organisations to reach the highest levels of government.
For many, President Alvaro Uribe has made Colombia a safer place. But his frontal war against the Farc has also disguised the serious issues, from corruption to serious Human Rights violations, that will continue to affect for a very long time.