Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday said he has ordered security forces to take action in the Pacific port town of Buenaventura after the discovery of four houses meant to torture and dismember people.
The order followed after months of growing complaints of horrific violence, drug trafficking and other illicit activity inflicted by criminal organizations present in the city.
Santos told Caracol Radio that “Buenaventura has become a type of laboratory for these criminal organizations, they have taken over drug trafficking routes and the business of smuggling and have displayed a type of war befitting true mafias.”
Santos’ call for action came months after the United Nations called on authorities to act against the ongoing crisis in Buenaventura caused by staggering poverty levels and increasing homicides.
Authorities in Colombia’s largest Pacific port city said Wednesday they were able to determine the locations of the “chop houses” using forensic lights able to detect blood stains left on the walls and floors after gruesome murders and dismemberments, reported local media.
Three of the houses, also known as “pink houses,” were located in close proximity to the beach front which allowed gang members to quickly toss their victims’ body parts into the tide in bags weighted with stones. Another house has reportedly been found in the city’s center said Radio SantaFe.
Newspaper El Espectador reported that some people living near to the houses were able to hear screams but were afraid to report the disturbances to the police because they feared a brutal reprisal similar to what they had witnessed.
There have reportedly been 58 murders in Buenaventura since the beginning of 2014. This indicates a disturbing growth in violence from 2013 when 187 murders occurred during the entire year. 2013’s murder total increased 25% from 2012 according to the Buenaventura Ombudsman’s Office, indicating a steady growth of violence in recent years. The rampant violence in Buenaventura prompted a visit from the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner in November of 2013.
Buenaventura’s homicide rate
Buenaventura is on of the most important legal and illegal ports in Colombia. Much of the violence has been attributed to armed groups such as “Los Urabeños” and “La Empresa,” fighting one another for control of the best corridors to transport narcotics to the coast where it can be moved up the coast more easily.