A report from Colombia’s highest government human rights official says rights violations continue to plague the port city of Buenaventura, despite the ongoing intervention by the Colombian military.
According to Colombia’s Ombudsman, Jorge Armando Otalora, human rights violations continue in the troubled coastal city, despite the additional presence of 380 policemen and 400 marines.
In a statement released on the Ombudsman’s national website, Otalora cited the five violent deaths that occurred in the city over Easter weekend as evidence of the continually declining security situation in Buenaventura. The Ombudsman also noted that there had been 65 threats against community leaders, and that parents continue to fear the recruitment of minors by armed groups operating in the area.
According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, there have been more than 63 homicides in the city this year, including 10 cases of dismemberment.
Otalora’s statements were made during a Senate session that focused on the declining humanitarian situation in Buenaventura. Though the ombudsman acknowledged the government’s efforts, he called for additional additional measures to be put into place to strengthen security in the city. Otalora’s suggestions including strengthening the local judicial system, and maintaining a military presence in the area that focuses on preventative security.
According to Otalora, the recent violence in Buenaventura is a reaction by local gangs to the crack down by state security services, which included an expanded military presence and the capture of 151 gang members.
The humanitarian crisis in Buenaventura has drawn international condemnation from organizations such as the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
Buenaventura has been the stage of an increasingly aggressive turf war between criminal gangs fighting for control of illegal drug trafficking routes.
“Los Urabeños” and “La Empresa,” are the two criminal organizations that are believed to funnel drugs into the Buenaventura, and up the Pacific coast towards Central America. Both groups have terrorized the city over the last few years, with violence increasing drastically in recent months.
Los Urabeños and La Empresa are gangs that formed from the remnants of the paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), following its demobilization in 2006.
Violence between these two gangs has been fierce, with both groups seeking to control the drug trafficking routes that run in and out of the port city.