Colombia’s largest paramilitary successor group, Los Urabeños, are ordering people in the northwest of the country to take part in an anti-government march being organized for Saturday by former President Alvaro Uribe.
The accusation was made by El Tiempo, a newspaper with close ties to the family of President Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s political adversary.
Based on anonymous sources within the Prosecutor General’s Office, the newspaper reported that members of the Urabeños in the Cordoba and Antioquia provinces told locals they have hired some 100 buses to transport people to a planned opposition protest in the province capital Monteria.
According to El Tiempo, the feared neo-paramilitaries told locals in Arboletes, Antioquia and Valencia, Cordoba they are expected to take part in the protests organized by the conservative opposition already plagued by numerous accusations of ties to paramilitary death squads.
Additionally, said the newspaper, the Urabeños have been pressuring local journalists to promote Sunday’s march, during which Uribe and his Democratic Center party seek to express their opposition to peace talks with leftist rebel groups FARC and ELN, and the government’s economic policy.
El Tiempo’s accusation comes on the day the Urabeños ordered an economic shutdown across Colombia to commemorate the killing of one of their commanders.
The shutdown comes amid an ongoing offensive in the Urabeños’ heartland in the northwest of Colombia where they allegedly have been intimidating civilians.
But Saturday’s marches in part will be against ongoing peace talks held with leftist rebel groups FARC and ELN, talks that have consistently received explicit Urabeños support and were supported again in the pamphlet ordering the economic shutdown for Thursday.
In fact, the group, which has become Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking group since its announced formation in 2008, also reiterated its wish to join the ongoing peace efforts, a wish that has been categorically denied by Santos.
While authorities have tried to downplay the Urabeños’ de facto authority in areas where they operate, the last time the group ordered an economic shutdown in 2012, businesses and transport companies suspended operations in nearly one third of the country, causing major economic damage.