Over the past weeks, over 1,500 residents in Comuna 15’s Brisas de Comuneros neighborhood have fled their homes due to threats from a group known as “Buenaventureños,” reportedly hailing from Colombia’s Pacific port city of Buenaventura. However, the local ombudsman’s office said “many” groups were vying for control over the district’s drug trafficking businesses.
“We have identified many irregular groups and the community has alerted us about one called “La Empresa.” However, not only groups from Buenaventura are present in the district, but also groups that are well-known and established on Colombian territory,” Cali ombudsman Andres Santamaria told Colombia Reports.
“Their presence can not be denied as it can not be denied in other Colombian cities like Medellin. They are deliberately constructing generalized violence over the control of micro-trafficking, this is the case with Cali and other municipalities of the country.”
On Tuesday, heavily armed police flooded parts of Comuna 15 with the task of giving security to the locals who had chosen to remain despite the recent threats.
“The police made an intervention because of the request I made as ombudsman of Cali. However, the problem is that these armed groups are using children to realize their activities. The majority of the gang members [there] are minors or adolescents, for that reason we suggest a social policy.”
However, despite the intervention, locals said fear had not disappeared with the arrival of the police.
“I don’t know what is going to happen, because they have said they have grenades and rifles and that they need us to leave. I have not left because I have nowhere to go and, although the police are here, at any given moment the [criminals] can attack us, because the Police will not always be here,” Marta, a local resident whose husband was killed by the Buenaventureños, told newspaper El Pais.
“The biggest complexity we see is the involvement of minors in the armed conflict. We can not allow that children become cannon-fodder of these groups. The most important thing in society is the protection of the children. The increasing amount of children in the conflict should be a priority for the local government,” Santamaria concluded.
FACT SHEET: Cali crime statistics
Cali’s gang situation is notoriously complex. More than 150 gangs operate within the city limits, according to Santamaria. Many local gangs “sell” their services to larger criminal organizations, leading to temporary alliances and turf wars. Cali’s coroner’s office told Colombia Reports there were 1,702 homicides in the city in 2007. In 2012 there were 1,859 murders, or 81 per 100,000 citizens, almost three times higher than Colombia’s national average . Meanwhile, forced disappearances in the city increased from 255 cases in 2010 to 540 in 2012.
Brisas de Comuneros, Comuna 15 – Cali
- Interview with Andres Santamaria, Ombudsman of Santiago de Cali
- ‘Los Buenaventureños’ continúan amenazando a Brisas de Comuneros (El Pais)
- Information from Cali’s coroner’s office