Violence forced some 117 people to flee their homes in the northwest of Medellin in what authorities are calling the largest displacement within the city in recent years.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, the exodus, which occured between Wednesday and Friday last week was comparable to one that occured in 2001 due to paramilitary conflict. However, last week’s was more intense because it took place over a shorter space of time.
El Tiempo claimed that around 23 families fled the area as a result of suffering murdered family members in revenge attacks. Gangs held the families responsible for the arrest of a prominent gang leader.
“We fled the area because we were living in hell,” the refugees of the troubled neighbourhood, Popular 1, told newspaper El Mundo.
The Mayor of Medellin is providing emergency care to the displaced families while coordinating their relocation to areas outside the city as they are reluctant to stay where their lives are prepetually at risk.
The Medellin Ombudsman reported that since the beginning of 2009, around 350 people have been displaced from Popular 1 due to the proliferation of local gangs who are in constant battles to gain and defend territory and honor. Innocent victims are continuously caught in cross-fire.
Violence is steadily increasing throughout the poorer districts of Medellin, whose name had long been synonymous with urban warfare. So far in 2009, city police have recorded more than 1,300 homicides – already 20 percent higher than in the entire year of 2008.