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RIC Query - Colombia (27 August 2003)

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Response to Information Request Number:COL03005.ZMI
Date:August 27, 2003
Subject:Colombia: Information on the Comandos Armados del Pueblo (CAP) in Medellín
From:CIS Resource Information Center
Keywords:Colombia / Guerrilla warfare / Armed resistance movments / FARC / ELN




What are the Comandos Armados del Pueblo (CAP)? Are they only in Medellín? Are they an independent group or affiliated with one of the larger guerrilla groups?


The Comandos Armados del Pueblo (People's Armed Commandos, CAP) are a guerrilla group based in Medellín. As is the case with much information on the CAP, different sources report different information on the year the CAP were founded. In May 2002, the daily EL COLOMBIANO reported that the CAP were founded in either 1996 or 1997. COLOMBIA REPORT indicates that the CAP were founded in the 20 de Julio neighborhood of the Comuna 13 section of Medellín in 1996 "out of the remnants of dissident factions of the ELN and the MPP (an independent militia that negotiated in the mid-1990s), among others" (Oct 2002, 13-14). According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the Comandos Armados Populares (Armed Popular Commandos, CAP) "originally formed part of the ELN urban militias and currently operate in various areas of the capital of Antioquia" (Jan 2000).

There is also some discrepancy with the name. Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) refers to the CAP as Comandos Armados Populares, or Armed Popular Commandos (Jan 2000), whereas most other sources refer to CAP as Comandos Armados del Pueblo, People's Armed Commandos.

EL COLOMBIANO states that the CAP are one of the main armed groups in Medellín, "in the last 13 months the autodefensas, the CAP and the FARC are the strongest groups in the city. 'The CAP is working more with the Milicias Bolivarianas and they are in [the neighborhoods of] Robledo, Blanquizal, Vallejuelos, 20 de Julio, La Independencia and Belencito'" (30 Apr 2002).

In the May 23, 2002, EL COLOMBIANO, Carlos Alberto Giraldo reported "The western edge of Medellín is one of the most affected by clashes between illegals [armed groups]. The militias of the ELN, FARC, and the People's Armed Commandos, CAP, are there and there is constant incursion by autodefense groups."


Media sources provide varied information on whether or not the CAP have ties to other guerrilla groups. EL COLOMBIANO (30 Apr 2002, May 2002 and Oct 2002), BBC Mundo (22 May 2002, 17 Oct 2002), EL PAÍS (Colombia) (16 Oct 2002) refer to the CAP as an independent guerrilla group. However, the magazine of the Colombian National Police and EL PAÍS (Colombia 28 Feb 2003) indicate that the CAP are affiliated with the ELN. In a telephone interview, Bruce Bagley, a Professor of International Studies at the University of Miami, indicated that the CAP are linked to the FARC (the full text of interview is included later in this response). COLOMBIA REPORT notes that in the Comuna 13 section of Medellín, "the FARC, the ELN and the CAP have formed an alliance" (28 Oct 2002). In "The Occupied Territories of Medellín" COLOMBIA REPORT points out that this alliance in Comuna 13 "contrasts remarkably with the situation in northeastern Medellín where the FARC and the CAP are in conflict, and with the area around the University of Antioquia where the CAP and the ELN have confronted one another in the not so distant past" (Oct 2002, 13).


Media reports also provide seemingly conflicting information on whether the CAP is one guerrilla group, or a name used to refer to several similar organizations. BBC Mundo, in its October 17, 2002, report on violence in Comuna 13 referred to the CAP as several groups. "For one and a half years conflicts have intensified there [Comuna 13] between groups of the extreme left (FARC, ELN and others known as People's Armed Comandos) and the extreme right" (BBC Mundo 17 Oct 2002). EL PAÍS (Colombia) reported, "among the militia members downed is 'Alias Mazo,' head of the Commandos Armados del Pueblo, as the guerrilla groups that operate in the peripheral areas of Medellín are known" (16 Oct 2002).


Bruce Bagley, Professor of International Studies at the University of Miami, provided the following information on the Comandos Armados del Pueblo in a telephone interview with the CIS Resource Information Center on August 14, 2003:

Professor Bagley stated that during his last visit to Medellín, in August-September 2002, all sources indicated that the CAP are an extension of the FARC. He explained that confusion concerning ties between the CAP and the ELN are due to the agreements that have been reached between the FARC and the ELN. The ELN's organizational capacity is deteriorating greatly, leading to agreements with the FARC, particularly in urban areas.

Although the CAP are linked to the FARC, the CAP operate with some autonomy in the barrios. The CAP combine criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, with guerrilla ideology. The CAP aim to control territory in the barrios of the comunas in which they operate. This has led to confrontations with the paramilitaries over control of drug trafficking territories.

The CAP in each barrio have their own local structure, with some links between the barrios. Although the CAP in different barrios are linked together, actions of each barrio's CAP are relatively autonomous. The ability to coordinate actions among CAP of different barrios is limited. (Telephone interview with CIS Resource Information Center 14 Aug 2003).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Bagley, Bruce. "Telephone Interview with the CIS Resource Information Center," 14 Aug 2003.

BBC Mundo. "Fuego Cruzado en Medellín," 17 Oct 2002.

BBC Mundo. "Medellín: Piden que Se Investigue Operativo," 22 May 2002.

COLOMBIA REPORT. Hylton, Forrest. "Comuna 13: Colombia's Urban Battleground," 28 Oct 2002.

COLOMBIA REPORT. Hylton, Forrest. "The Occupied Territories of Medellín," Oct 2002.

EL COLOMBIANO. "Guerra Urbana No Ha Prosperado," May 2002.

EL COLOMBIANO. Giraldo M., Carlos Alberto. "Colombia y la Violencia en una de sus Ciudades," 23 May 2002.

EL COLOMBIANO. Yarce, Elizabeth. "Medellín: 20 Años de Llanto en las Calles," 30 Apr 2002.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). "Colombia: The Comando Milicias Urbanas (Urban Militia Command or Commando)," Jan 2000 - accessed at

EL PAÍS (Colombia). "Capturan a 'Elenos' en Medellín," 28 Feb 2003.

EL PAÍS (Colombia). "Tres Militares y Diez Guerrilleros Muertos en Combates de Medellín," 16 Oct 2002.

REVISTA POLICÍA NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA. "Lucha Contra el Terrorismo en Medellín," edition 253.

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