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United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
Flag of AUC.svg
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia logo
Active April 1997 – 2006 / 2008 (nationally)
Country Colombia
Role Terrorists
Guerrilla warfare
Garrison/HQ Unknown
Nickname(s) Paramilitaries, Paras, Paracos
Equipment Small arms
Engagements Colombian conflict
Carlos Castaño 
Vicente Castaño
Miguel Arroyave a.k.a. Arcángel 
Diego Murillo Bejarano
Salvatore Mancuso
Rodrigo Tovar Pupo a.k.a. Jorge 40
Ernesto Báez  
Ramón Isaza
Freddy Rendón a.k.a. El Alemán
Julián Bolívar
Javier Montañez a.k.a. Macaco
Luis Eduardo Cifuentes a.k.a. El Águila
Francisco Javier Zuluaga a.k.a. Gordo Lindo
Víctor Manuel Mejía Múnera a.k.a. El Mellizo 
Pedro Oliverio Guerrero a.k.a. Cuchillo 
Miguel Ángel Mejía Múnera a.k.a. El Mellizo
Héctor Germán Buitrago a.k.a. Martín Llanos
Initials AUC
Identifying armbands, frequently black ones

The United Self-Defenders of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, in Spanish) was a Colombian far-right paramilitary group which was an active belligerent in the Colombian armed conflict during the period from 1997 to 2006. The AUC was responsible for retaliations against the FARC and ELN communist organization as well as numerous attacks against civilians beginning in 1997 with the Mapiripán massacre.

The militia had its roots in the 1980s when militias were established by criminal lords to combat rebel kidnappings and extortion by communist guerrillas. In April 1997 the AUC was formed through a merger, orchestrated by the ACCU, of local right-wing militias, each intending to protect different local economic, social and political interests by fighting left-wing insurgents in their areas.

The organization was believed to have links to some local military commanders in the Colombian Armed Forces. According to Human Rights Watch, the paramilitary groups and the armed forces of Colombia share a very close connection and due to which paramilitary groups are also perceived as an extension, more commonly called sixth-division, of the Colombia's armed forces which has five official divisions.

The AUC had about 20,000 members and was partially financed through support from local landowners, cattle ranchers, mining or petroleum companies and politicians.

The Colombian military has been accused of delegating to AUC paramilitaries the task of murdering peasants and labor union leaders, amongst others suspected of supporting the rebel movements and the AUC publicly and explicitly singled out 'political and trade union operatives of the extreme left' as legitimate targets. Powerful links to the Colombian government were never proved. The AUC was designated as a terrorist organization by many countries and organizations, including the United States, Canada and the European Union.

The bulk of the AUC's blocs demobilized by early 2006 and its former top leadership was extradited to the U.S. in 2008. However, local successors such as the Black Eagles continue to exist and death threats have been made using its name.


The AUC's main enemies were the leftist insurgency groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN). The AUC was designated as a terrorist organization by many countries and organizations, including the United States, Canada and the European Union. The U.S. State Department added the AUC to the list in 2001, condemning it for massacres, torture, and other human rights abuses against civilians.

AUC clashes with military and police units gradually increased, although the group has traditionally been friendly with government security forces.

Human Rights Watch reports allege that numerous elements within the Colombian military and police have collaborated with or continue to tolerate local AUC paramilitary groups.

One of the AUC's targets has been Colombian trade unions.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia para niños

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