AUC–Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, United Self-Defense Group of Colombia
The AUC—commonly referred to as the paramilitaries—is an umbrella organization formed in April 1997 to consolidate most local and regional paramilitary groups each with the mission to protect economic interests and combat insurgents locally. The AUC_supported by economic elites, drug traffickers, and local communities lacking effective government security_claims its primary objective is to protect its sponsors from insurgents. The AUC now asserts itself as a regional and national counterinsurgent force. It is adequately equipped and armed and reportedly pays its members a monthly salary. AUC political leader Carlos Castaño has claimed 70 percent of the AUC’s operational costs are financed with drug-related earnings, the rest from "donations" from its sponsors.
AUC operations vary from assassinating suspected insurgent supporters to engaging guerrilla combat units. Colombian National Combat operations generally consist of raids and ambushes directed against suspected insurgents. The AUC generally avoids engagements with government security forces and actions against US personnel or interests.
Estimated 6000 to 8150, including former military and insurgent personnel.
Colombia, AUC forces are strongest in the northwest in Antioquia, Córdoba, Sucre, and Bolívar Departments. Since 1999, the group demonstrated a growing presence in other northern and southwestern departments. Clashes between the AUC and the FARC insurgents in Putumayo in 2000 demonstrated the range of the AUC to contest insurgents throughout Colombia.