At least 400 people from western Colombia have been forced to flee their homes while thousands are suffering a humanitarian emergency because of military activity of paramilitary successor group “Urabeños” and leftist ELN rebels.
The United Nations, Colombia’s Ombudsman and the human rights office of the Alto Baudo municipality in the western Choco province all sent out alerts about the potentially explosive situation in the Pacific jungle region.
While the United Nations said that 300 were displaced since Wednesday last week, the Ombudsman said 900 had been forced to leave their home.
Another 900 have been confined to their homes amid what appears to be a terror campaign by both the Urabeños, Colombia’s largest neo-paramilitary group, and the smaller ELN.
According to the Ombudsman’s early response chief, Jorge Calero, “there exist fears of confrontations with the ELN,” which has one of its strongholds in the region.
The Alto Baudo human rights office said that more than 3,000 people are affected by the violence and threat of violence.
The tensions between the paramilitary successor group and the ELN are “because of the territorial expansion of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia [a.k.a. Los Urabeños] in this area, which has been violating the fundamental rights of the population of Alto Baudo,” said Calero.
According to the Ombudsman’s Office, the neo-paramilitaries plundered homes in one of the municipality’s hamlets, creating panic among the population.
Meanwhile, the ELN last week carried out an “armed strike,” prohibiting any commercial activity. While the economic shutdown was national, it mostly affected municipalities like Alto Baudo where the guerrillas are the de facto authority.
Tensions between the ELN and the Urabeños have been reported since August last year, but without an adequate response of the national authorities that have neglected the impoverished region for decades.
According to the National Victims Unit, more than 65% of inhabitants of Choco are victims of the country’s armed conflict that’s been ravishing the country for decades.
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