United Self-Defense Forces/Group of Colombia (AUC Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia)
The United Self-Defense Forces/Group of Colombia (AUC Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia )—commonly referred to as the paramilitaries—is an umbrella organization formed in April 1997 to consolidate local and regional paramilitary groups each with the mission to protect economic interests and combat insurgents locally. AUC is supported by economic elites, drug traffickers, and local communities lacking effective government security. AUC claims its primary objective is to protect its sponsors from insurgents. The AUC now asserts itself as a regional and national counterinsurgent force. It is adequately equipped and armed and reportedly pays its members a monthly salary. AUC political leader Carlos Castaño has claimed 70% of AUC's operational costs are financed with drug-related earnings, the rest from "donations" from its sponsors.
Organization activities. AUC operations vary from assassinating suspected insurgent supporters to engaging guerrilla combat units. Colombian National Combat operations generally consist of raids and ambushes directed against suspected insurgents. The AUC generally avoids engagements with government security forces and actions against U.S. personnel or interests.
The AUC is estimated to have 6000 to 8150 members, including former military and insurgent personnel. AUC forces are strongest in the northwest in Antioquia, Córdoba, Sucre, and Bolívar Departments. Since 1999, the group demonstrated a growing presence in other northern and southwestern departments. Clashes between the AUC and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents in Putumayo in 2000 demonstrated the range of the AUC to contest insurgents throughout Colombia.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the Record Briefing. May 21, 2002 < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17, 2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual Reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).