The mayor of Bogota and a number of other officials have blamed neo-paramilitary group “Los Paisas” for violence in and after anti-government protests in Colombia’s capital last week.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro claimed on twitter that the Paisas were responsible for paying and organizing the acts of vandalism that took place during Bogota’s protests:
"los paisas" es el grupo que contrato pandillas y jóvenes de Suba para destruir CAI y comercio y establecer sus extorsiones
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) August 31, 2013
The Paisas are a small rural neo-paramilitary group that was formed in the wake of the demobilization of paramilitary umbrella organization AUC between 2003 and 2006. The group has been decimated over the past few years as a number of its key commanders joined rival group “The Urabeños.”
Colombian media reported on Monday that Petro’s claims were supported by other officials from the capital, including the Mayor of the Bosa district, Diana Calderon, and the Secretary of District Security Hugo Zarrate.
Zarrate said that “we have established that the vandalism that took place this week were organized criminal acts and not independent or spontaneous. This may include smaller drug trafficking groups who exploit the areas with the highest rate of violence in order to organize acts of vandalism.”
The media also claimed that 80 children, mostly aged 13 – 14, were arrested in the town of Bosa for being involved in riots and looting. The Mayor of Bosa, Diana Calderon, claimed that the youths were paid up to $10 by low level drug trafficking organizations to cause violence and discord.
The Bogota violence broke out at the end of a largely peaceful march in support of ongoing rural strikes. Following violence between police and hooded men on Bogota’s central Plaza de Bolivar, rioters and looters took to the streets in four of the city’s 20 districts. The violence killed two and injured 200 in the capital and forced the national government to militarize Bogota.
- Actos vandálicos habrían sido pagados por organizaciones de microtráfico: Distrito (Radio Caracol)
- Paisas (InSight Crime)
- Redes de microtráfico pagaron por actos de vandalismo en Bogotá (La Vanguardia)