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Presence of


Actors in




01 map.


This visualization presents an interactive heat map of the violent presence of armed actors in Colombia between 1988 and 2019.


The data categorizes armed actors in five main types:

  • Government forces

  • Insurgent organizations

  • Paramilitary groups

  • Criminal organizations

  • FARC Dissidents


Each of these types of actors is further disaggregated in a multitude of specific organizations.   


ViPAA is generated using computerized text annotation with Eventus ID, a protocol for supervised event coding capable of geo-referencing actors mentioned in text written in Spanish (Osorio & Reyes 2016).


The information used as an input for the computerized coding came from Noche y Niebla, a collection of narratives of human rights violations published by the Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP.



To open the map, click on the image below.


02 armed actors.

The data contained in ViPAA indicates the violent presence of armed actors at the municipality-year level. Given the nature of the information source, this data reflects the location of armed actors involved in human rights violations.  However, it does not necessarily reflect cases in which armed actors are present in a territory but refrain from exercising violence (Arjona 2011). Such cases would correspond to areas of hegemonic or monopolistic control of armed actors in which the use of violence might not be necessary.


Since Noche y Niebla comprises incidents of human rights violations, the information source might not systematically report cases of non-violent presence of armed actors, thus inhibiting the software form detecting this type of cases.  In consequence, inferences drawn from this data should consider a narrow approach focused on the violent presence of armed actors.

The database contains the following types of actors and their correspondent organizations:

Government Forces

Generic mentions of government forces
Attorney's General Office
Intelligence Agency 

Insurgent Organizations

Generic mentions of insurgents
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Popular Liberation Army (EPL)
People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP)
9th of April Movement (M-19)
Ernesto Rojas Commandos (CER)
Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (CGSB)

Paramilitary groups

Generic mentions of paramilitaries 
United Self-defense forces of Colombia (AUC)
Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC)
United Gaitan Self-defense forces (AGU)
Peasant Self-defense forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU)
Social Cleansing
Independent paramilitary groups


Generic mentions of criminal bands (BACRIM)
Los Urabenos
Los Rastrojos
Aguilas Negras
Los Paisas
Envigado Office
Los 400
Independent criminal groups

FARC Dissidents

Generic mention of FARC Dissidents
Leaders of FARC Dissident factions

Specific FARC Dissident groups




Methodological Summary


This visualization presents an interactive heat map of armed actors in Colombia based on ViPAA data. The term Armed Actor refers to state and non-state armed entities that exercise the organized use of violence in a specific territory to achieve political or economic goals. For this particular research, the main types of armed actors include: government forces, insurgent organizations, paramilitary groups, and criminal organizations. These main actors are further disaggregated in a variety of specific organizations.


To generate the database of Violent Presence of Armed Actors, the project relies on the computerized identification of actors and locations using Eventus ID (Osorio & Reyes 2016).  The raw information comes from Noche y Niebla, a systematic and encompassing collection of human rights violations narratives provided by CINEP. These narratives provide a brief but detailed account of violent incidents covering a broad range of actions (e.g. threats, rape, beatings, torture, forced displacement, arson, killings, etc.). The software reads the text of the Noche y Niebla narratives in order to identify the actors and places mentioned in the text. To do so, the software relies on dictionaries of actors and locations. The result of the coding process is a database of armed actors geo-located at the municipality-year level.


Each data point in the database represents one observation of an armed actor in a given municipality-year as detected in the Noche y Niebla narratives. The exact location of the incidents at the XY coordinate level is unknown, so the researchers assigned the coordinates of the municipality center to their respective observation. The map presents a heat map displaying a higher intensity color range in areas concentrating a higher density of armed actors. 



Related publications

Research Team

Javier Osorio

(Principal Investigator)​

Susan Brewer-Osorio

(Co-Principal Investigator)​

Graduate Research Assistants

Jessica "Cait" Boyer

Mohamed Mohamed

Alejandro Beltran

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Francy Luna

Juan Pablo Penaloza

Abel Macias

Rubyalejandra Najera

With the support of

Desmond Arias

Harold Trinkunas

Vanda Felbab-Brown

04 data access.

ViPAA 1.2 is publicly available for free. Please enter your information to request access to the data.


Please cite as:

Osorio, Javier, Mohamed Mohamed, Viveca Pavon, and Susan Brewer-Osorio. (2019). "Mapping Violent Presence of Armed Actors in Colombia," Advances of Cartography and GIScience of the International Cartographic Association, 1(16):1-9,

Intended data use:

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