Project Details


The peace agreement signed on 24 November 2016 between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ('FARC'), although it has meant that the latter (with the exception of their dissidents) have transformed into a political movement, has in no way meant the end of the dynamics of violence in Colombia. The illegal economies, especially those developed around drug trafficking, remain in many of the most remote regions of the national territory, which has favoured the survival of numerous illegal armed organisations that continue to threaten communities and sometimes even affect public order and national security. These organisations, which form an organisational system that fluctuates according to the conditions of the context, constituting networks of groups and individuals in a process of constant adaptation, have been classified into various categories: (i) Organized Armed Groups ('GAOs'), which have greater capacity for the use of force and the regulation of territorial dynamics (Gulf Clan, the Puntilleros, the National Liberation Army ('ELN'), and the Pelusos); (ii) Organized Resident Armed Groups ('GAORs'), a category used to include FARC dissidents; (iii) Organized Criminal Groups ('GDOs'), which have less capacity to use armed force, so that, although they may affect public order and threaten communities, they do not endanger national security (the Rastrojos, the Caqueteños, the Cordillera or the Botalones); and (iv) other groups involved in drug production and trafficking, such as 'collection agencies', minor criminal groups, and less visible individuals and drug traffickers. However, in different studies, a good number of these organizations are included in the general category of criminal gangs ('Bacrim'), which emerged after the partial demobilization of the paramilitary groups between 2003 and 2006, as part of the adaptive logic of the organizational system of the illegal drug trafficking economy. The Bacrim have been defined by the International Crisis Group (2012) as 'nationally disarticulated criminal structures with high levels of corruption, intimidation and armed power that have combined the production and commercialization of drugs with the violent affectation of citizens' rights and liberties in rural areas and on the periphery of some urban centres in the country'. Rojas (2011) states that, although the Bacrim do not seek political power, their main objective is to achieve economic and social power through targeted violence, with a transnational scope of action. For Prieto (2013), the Bacrim is a phenomenon (i) typical of organized crime; (ii) built around drug trafficking and other legal and illegal economic activities such as mining, micro-extortion or micro-trafficking; (iii) theoretically detached from the logic of the armed conflict in legal and military terms; (iv) low-profile, urban, with mostly non-military structures, but with the capacity to manage territories and exercise broad social control at the local level; (v) with the capacity to make temporary alliances with guerrilla groups at the national level, and with cartels and criminal networks at the international level; (vi) with the capacity to infiltrate institutions and corrupt members of the security forces and public officials; and (vii) responsible for a significant number of massacres, murders, forced displacements, extortion and forced recruitment of minors, among other crimes. The organizational system fed by the illegal economies developed around drug trafficking in Colombia is not isolated, nor is it limited territorially to Colombian territory. In fact, the system goes beyond State borders and is a truly transnational system, the result of the high demand for narcotics in different parts of the world, which generates the incentive to produce them and transport them to the major centres of global consumption. In this sense, Prieto (2013) emphasizes in relation to the Bacrim, that members of their armed or financial arms maintain constant physical presence in neighboring countries with weaknesses in the border areas, such as Venezuela, Ecuador or Peru. In addition, they have close links with local criminal organizations in countries with high participation in important drug trafficking links, such as Mexico. Their contacts also extend to countries such as Honduras and Panama in Central America, and Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay in South America, in order to carry out their operations of drug trafficking, arms trafficking, smuggling of goods, money laundering and front men. They also maintain liaison points for drug trafficking in other countries in South America such as Brazil and Chile, and its scope of action and influence extends even to the destination markets, and in particular to the USA (where by September 2011 more than a hundred people related to the Bacrim had been charged in South Florida) and Europe (especially Spain). In order to be able to deploy their activities over time, the Bacrim, like other transnational organized crime organizations, require, among other things, a structural connection with the public (administrative, legislative and judicial) and private (in particular the financial sector) authorities in the area in which they operate, which makes corruption play 'a central role' in their activities (Domine, 2007). This structural connection between transnational organized crime organizations and the public and private powers in the area in which they operate has been especially analyzed in relation to the Mexican drug cartels. They act alongside corrupt public officials or within a framework of acquiescence, complacency, non-intervention or improper state intervention (Rexton, 2016). Consequently, state agencies and agents actively or passively participate in criminal activities (Medel & Thoumi, 2014). Moreover, once corrupt pacts are established, violence is applied not only between competitors for the illegal market, but also against non-corrupt public officials (Paternostro, 1995).This situation means that, because of their close contact with the legal financial system and with the political system responsible for designing legislation and promoting its application, transnational organized crime organizations such as the Bacrim and Mexican cartels do not carry out their illegal transactions by taking advantage of "legal loopholes", but rather of social interaction with the authorities in the territories and jurisdictions where they carry out their activities (Kleemans, 2014).In light of the above, Rodriguez (2010) emphasizes that this type of organization constitutes one of the main threats currently facing Latin America, which is confirmed by Garzón (2012) when he states that 'organized crime is undergoing substantial and constant changes in Latin America, positioning itself as one of the relevant strategic actors in the hemisphere, reconfiguring territorial borders, playing an important role in the economy, penetrating political and social structures, and putting into play the progress made in building the state and the democratic system'. Consequently, the existence of organizations such as the Bacrim or the Mexican cartels is considered a major threat to institutions, since their socio-economic power allows them to bribe officials, interfere in democratic processes, affect the way citizens and communities relate to institutions (perpetuating scenarios of illegality) and lead to the reversal of state action in social policy, administration of justice and local governance (Olasolo & Galain 2018). In addition, the human and social costs of the Bacrim's actions are very high, due to the high number of homicides, extortive kidnappings, acts of terror against the population and forced displacements that they commit, in addition to the public health problems derived from the micro-trafficking of drugs that they generate in the communities where they operate.Given this situation, it can be seen that the old legal structures for prevention, control and punishment, both at the domestic and international levels, have become obsolete in order to effectively deal with genuine professional transnational criminal organizations in Colombia and the Americas, whose livelihoods are based on prohibited transactions, who know in detail the area in which they operate, who obtain profits that exceed the gross domestic product of a good number of the region's States, and who have as their central elements of activity: (i) the corruption of the various public and private authorities in the different material and territorial areas (local, regional, national and international) in which they operate; and (ii) the use of the latest technological advances and the possibilities offered by a deregulated global financial system (Hagan, 1983; Zaffaroni, 1999; Aronowitz, 2003; Obokata, 2006).In this context, there is a need to resort to international law to increase the effectiveness of the legal response to these organizations and their corrupt practices. The present project aims to propose measures for strengthening the response to corruption associated with transnational organized crime offered by international law. To this end, it will address in particular the tools offered by transnational criminal law and international law.


With regard to the products and results of activities to generate new knowledge, it is worth noting:
1. The publication of a research book in an international publishing house after it has undergone a process of anonymous peer review. It is considered that the text could be suitable for publication in the Collection Ibero-American Perspectives on International Justice, which is published by Editorial Tirant lo Blanch (Spain) in co-edition with the Ibero-American Institute of The Hague for Peace, Human Rights and International Justice (Netherlands) and the Joaquín Herrera Flores Institute (Brazil).

2. The publication of two research articles in journals indexed in Scopus (quartiles Q-1 to Q-3) in which the main conclusions reached in the research book, on: (i) which are the most adequate measures for the strengthening of the response to corruption associated to transnational organized crime offered by international law today; and (ii) which are the implications of the creation of an institution with the characteristics of COPLA from the perspective of international relations.

With respect to the expected outputs and results of the training activities, the training of: (i) a student of the Master's Degree in International Law; (ii) a young researcher; and (iii) two undergraduate students, who are currently part of the International Legal Clinic that the Universidad del Rosario carries out in partnership with the IIH and the Office of Public Defense of Victims of the International Criminal Court. All of them will develop investigative skills and competencies in the collection and analysis of primary and secondary sources of information, and in the organization and participation in seminars that offer the opportunity to share experiences with national, regional and international officials working in agencies that prevent and fight transnational corruption.

To this end, the master's student, the young researcher and the two undergraduate students will be tutored by the project's principal researcher (Professor Olásolo), and, taking into account the task assigned according to the work plan and the situation, will interact with the other co-researchers. In addition, the reviews of the research progress made by the master's student, the young researcher and the two undergraduate students will be in charge of their tutor, and will aim to appropriately guide their research and make adjustments in the articulation of their projects.
Effective start/end date1/15/2011/30/21

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Main Funding Source

  • Competitive Funds
  • Small Amount


  • Bogotá D.C.


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