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Timeline of Colombia's Modern Paramilitary Movement

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Monday, May 24, 2010

1981: The first modern paramilitary group is formed by some of Colombia's top cocaine kingpins: Death to Kidnappers, created to execute kidnappers who had targeted the relatives of drug traffickers.

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1982: In the central Magdalena River valley, landowners, politicians, military officers and drug traffickers form a group that carries out massacres and assassinations, targeting not just suspected guerrillas but also opposition politicians, prosecutors and innocent civilians.

1990: The Union Patriotica party, a political arm of FARC guerrillas, is largely wiped out after years of attacks by paramilitaries, losing hundreds of politicians, including presidential candidates, to hit men.

1994: Congress approves creation of the CONVIVIR, self-defense groups strongly supported by the governor of Antioquia, Álvaro Uribe. Investigators later determine that many of the groups morphed into paramilitary groups led by notorious death squad commanders.

1997: The Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC in Spanish, is formed. The loose coalition of paramilitary groups would grow exponentially, spreading terror across the country.

2001: The United States blacklists the AUC as a terrorist organization. Many of its leaders are also later indicted for drug trafficking.

2003: Under a government-orchestrated program, paramilitary members began a wide-scale disarmament that would end in 2006, demobilizing more than 10,000 hardened fighters.

2004: Paramilitary commanders kill their supreme leader, Carlos Castaño, who they suspect had been cooperating with the United States in its investigation of paramilitary drug trafficking.

2006: Special judicial hearings begin in which paramilitary commanders who have surrendered to authorities are obligated to admit their crimes in exchange for leniency.

2008: Colombia's top paramilitary leaders are extradited to the United States to face drug charges, incensing victims' rights groups who want the commanders tried in Colombia for war crimes.

2010: New groups, frequently made up of former AUC members and commanders, operate in several regions of Colombia, controlling the drug trade and cocaine-trafficking routes.

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