Colombia’s government extended an alert to 13 of the country’s 32 department over the violence committed by drug gangs and groups formed from the ashes of the now-defunct paramilitary AUC.
The departments on alert are are located on the country’s Caribbean coast, the southern departments bordering Ecuador and Peru, and the east and southeast, bordering Venezuela.
“Measures must be taken to ensure the protection of the inhabitants of the municipalities. Greater control over these areas to avoid situations we were warned for,” Interior and Justice Minister said Wednesday.
According to the Ministers, these neo-paramilitary groups are increasingly disrupting public life through “road blocks, murder attempts, extortion and violence.”
Vargas Lleras called on local authorities to carry out “intelligence missions that allow the prosecution and identification of members of these groups.”
Colombia’s Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera announced an offensive “without precedent” against the illegal armed groups in the northern Cordoba department “to close off the way of the drug traffickers that are using the coast to export drugs.”
Following the demobilization of the AUC, smaller groups emerged that tried to take over the drug business left behind by the country’s largest ever paramilitary organization. Drug gang “Los Rastrojos,” formed from the remnants of the Norte del Valle cartel, has also grown in strength since then. The violence caused by these groups led the United Nations expressing its concern earlier this week.