Colombia’s chief ombudsman has condemned the violent situation on the Caribbean island of San Andres after seven people were murdered in August and others were forcibly displaced.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Jorge Armando Otalora called on the “national government, the armed forces, and the government of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina to adopt effective measures to protect the life and personal integrity of the population in the face of the increase in the number of violent deaths…as a consequence of the actions of illegal armed groups.”
The Caribbean islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina make up the San Andres archipegalo, which has a population of 75,000 people, many of whom are creole-speaking protestant Afro-Colombians known as ‘raizales.’ The archipegalo lies 480 miles from the Colombian coast and 143 miles from Nicaragua.
Ombudsman Otalora says he has listened to formal complaints from citizens of the archipegalo who claim to have received death threats and have been forced to move to the continent.
His press release reported that in October there have been seven murders on the island of San Andres. The most recent came last weekend when Juan Garcia Jaramillo, who ran a gas station and was formerly a manager at RCN Radio, was shot down while on his motorbike.
The violence is related to drug trafficking – San Andres is used as a stop-off point for cocaine shipments coming out of South America. Go-fast boats are used to take the illicit drugs from the archipegalo to nearby Central American countries like Nicaragua, Jamaica and Haiti.
“We know that San Andres, in addition to being one of the most important tourist destinations of the country, is also a strategically important site for those people dedicated to micro-trafficking and drug-trafficking,” said Otalora.
“For many years now different illegal armed groups that grew out of the demobilized remains of the [paramilitary group] AUC, have seen the [San Andres] archipegalo as an attractive region for the trafficking of weapons and illicit drugs,” he continued.
“The actions of said groups have affected the security situation for the inhabitants of San Andres, with increases in juvenile crime, gang warfare, assassinations and extortion.”
Analysis website Insight Crime claimed in January that the powerful neo-paramilitary group Urabeños had been fighting with rival drug-trafficking gangs the Paisas and the Rastrojos for control of the islands.
- Defensor del Pueblo solicita medidas urgentes para frenar homicidios en San Andrés (Press release from Chief Ombudsman)
- Defensoría denunció desplazamiento forzado en San Andrés (Caracol Radio)
- San Andrés y Providencia (National Department of Planning)
- San Andres Island Twin Drug Capos Arrested (Insight Crime)