The Defense Minister of Colombia said that the country doesn't have any active paramilitary groups, despite recent criticism from social organizations and activists that irregular armed groups have killed community leaders.
"In Colombia there is no paramilitarism. There's not," said Minister Luis Carlos Villegas during a press conference.
"To say that there is paramilitarism in Colombia would be to give political recognition to a group of bandits who are dedicated to common and organized crime,” said Villegas.
According to Villegas, a state-back plan rolled out in 2003 demobilized paramilitary groups that began during the 1980s. The state now considers these groups as criminal gangs and persecutes those who are still operating in the country.
“There are murders but they are not systematic. If there were, I would be the first to accept it," said Villegas.
Social organizations and human rights activists say the recent murders of community leaders were carried out by paramilitaries to stall the peace process and the implementation of the final agreement.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, who are in transition to become a political party, denounced paramilitary presence in Tumaco, on the northwestern border with Ecuador.
"In Tumaco what is happening is an integral struggle of the state against all manifestations of the crime," said Villegas. "Over there is mostly organized crime and it is being duly fought by the Armed Forces."