Daniel Rico, the report’s author and a former counter-narcotics adviser to the Colombian Defense Ministry, began by looking at drug trafficking data collected by the United Nations and the Organization of American States. What he found was a connection between the growth in the number of Bacrim groups in the late 2000s — which he believes was a sign they were fragmenting into smaller groups — and a decline in coca cultivation. The share of cocaine profits for the Bacrim also declined. In the late 1990s, a kilo of Colombian cocaine could bring in $16,000 in profit after export to the United States. Today, the Bacrim make about $5,500.

That’s still a profit, and Rico writes that the Bacrim remain violent and dangerous. However, “In market terms, this meant that on account of increased competition between Bacrim as the suppliers of cocaine, Mexican cartels were strengthened as buyers improved their bargaining power and increased their profit margin per kilogram of cocaine,” Rico writes.

It’s important to briefly define what the Bacrim is. For one, the name is an abbreviation for Bandas Criminales or “Criminal Bands” — a clunky term created by the Colombian government to describe a new generation of loosely-connected gangsters. Mostly, the Bacrim is made up of drug traffickers from several now-extinct cartels, and ex-fighters from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a demobilized army of right-wing paramilitaries who mostly gave up their guns in a 2006 peace deal.

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