Medellin gangs have reportedly devastated homes abandoned by people the criminals themselves displaced.
According to local media, 17 homes in the San Javier district of Medellin were recently dismantled by local “combos” (neighborhood gangs).
“They pulled out the windows and doors and took the tiles,” said one local resident. The houses have also lost their taps, electrical sockets and toilets. The houses had been empty for awhile and the gang members arrived in early January.
“It took a whole week to dismantle everything,” said another local. “They brought a truck and took it all.”
Medellin Ombudsman, Rodrigo Ardila, said the houses belonged to families displaced in 2011 by another gang. As houses abandoned due to gang threats, they are almost impossible to sell.
The area, also known as Comuna 13, has the highest level of gang violence in the city. It is heavily militarized but the local gangs are linked to larger drug trafficking organizations such as “Los Urabeños” or “La Oficina de Envigado” and it is dangerous to speak out against them.
“They were going up and down every day [taking things] but it’s better to keep your mouth shut or they close it forever,” said one resident.
Ardila said the stripping of houses of displaced people is a known practice. He said the authorities also know of cases where people were forced from their homes so that friends or relatives of gang members could occupy them.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, nearly 10,000 people were displaced in Medellin during 2012 according to official figures. Some people leave their homes due to explicit threats, others due to the danger of being caught in the crossfire of warring drug gangs.