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Report: Colombian armed groups, gangs have more than 17,600 members

While the estimate of members is higher than authorities originally expected, it helps check the group’s membership claims


April 14, 2023 8:43am

Updated: April 14, 2023 1:10pm

There are more than 17,600 individuals that belong to Colombia’s major armed groups and gangs, according to two security reports shared with Reuters. 

The new figures, which have never been reported, include members of the four major armed groups and 23 gangs with which the Colombian government is trying to negotiate peace deals. According to security sources, the reports were made in an effort to understand the composition of such groups. 

While the estimate of members is higher than authorities originally expected, it helps check the group’s membership claims and gives a rough estimate of what the country is dealing with, the security sources said.

The reports add that many of those who are typically counted as armed groups or gang members are not armed, but instead belong to a network of individuals that delivers supplies or shares intelligence, according to Reuters. 

The report will be shared with President Gustavo Petro and Defense Minister Iván Velásquez Gómez at the upcoming security meeting. 

One of the largest armed groups in Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN) has around 5,850 members: 2,900 of which are combatants, while 2,950 are part of its support network, according to the reports. 

The second largest group, Clan Del Golfo, has around 4,060 members: 1620 of which are combatants and 2,440 are part of their support network, the report continues. The Estado Mayor Central group, founded by former FARC rebels, has around 3,530 members, 2,1880 of which are combatants. Similarly, Segunda Marquetalia, composed of former FARC members, has 1,670 members, 1,060 of which are combatants. 

In addition to the major gangs, the reports claim 2,500 gang members are operating in major cities, such as Medellin and Buenaventura. 

The reports come as Petro seeks to reach a peace agreement with many of the violent groups in the country, ending the decades-long conflict that has claimed more than 450,000 lives. 

The ELN has been engaging in peace negotiations with the government since last year. The two parties are expected to meet for a third round of talks in Cuba in the near future. 

The government had also been in talks with the Clan del Golfo and had reached a cease-fire agreement. However, the agreement was suspended last month after the Clan allegedly incited violence during demonstrations.