Members of human rights organizations in the Medellin neighborhood of Comuna 6 are receiving death threats from illegal armed groups said the local Ombudsman.
Medellin Ombudsman Jairo Herran Vargas has emphatically dismissed the death threats. He said social groups which try to find alternative means to solve the problem of violence are targets because of their commendable purpose, adding that their members are victims of several kinds of harassment, persecution and stigmatization.
The activities and processes that the groups carry out to encourage peaceful coexistence, with the support of the Ombudsman’s Office, conflict with the interests of the armed illegal groups. The Ombudsman’s Office is therefore keen to find ways to give the activists full protection.
Among those threatened are Carlos Alberto Arcila Valencia, Rafael Rincon Patiño, Giovanny Villa and Fabian Tamayo who claim that illegal groups in the area are working in cooperation with the police. Those threatened have been in contact with the Interior and Justice Ministry, the Metropolitan Police and other municipal authorities to try and ensure their safety.
For the Ombudsman’s Office it is essential that necessary precautions are taken in relation to the level of risk involved in activist work and that there be a statement of solidarity from the local administrative government to the residents of Comuna 6. The office also wants a statement from international organizations who might be able to assist in offering the security measures that these people need.
Comuna 6, in the north west of Colombia’s second city, has seen a high number of murders in 2011 leading to speculation that a ceasefire between two local criminal gangs has been broken.