A wave of allegedly gang related murders in Medellin has led to speculation that the ceasefire agreement, brokered in February, between rival criminal gangs in Colombia’s second largest city, has been broken.
The resurgence of violence, particularly in the neighborhood of Comuna 6, 12 de Octubre, which last week saw six assassinations in two days, and clashes between gangs that resulted in the forced displacement of families, threats, forced recruitment and other human rights violations, brought back worries that that ceasefire has been broken, reported El Mundo on Tuesday.
Jaime Jaramillo Panesso, who was part of the group of peace activists that brokered the ceasefire in February, claimed that the agreement, which was signed by the two rival gang leaders “Valenciano” and “Sebastian,” has not officially been broken.
“What has been broken are the power structures within the gangs. The gang leaders who adhere to the ceasefire are in hiding, but their middle level leadership are not, and are not abiding by the agreement,” Panesso said.
According to Panesso, the vying for control of the middle management of the gangs has led to the rise in violence across the barrios of Medellin.
The resurgent violence is reportedly affecting daily life in the neighborhoods. According to Carlos Arcila, a human rights worker in the Comuna 6, 12 de Octubre neighborhood, “On Friday, students had to leave school early, and those who study at night didn’t go to class. The people are living.. in continuous anxiety.”
The ceasefire agreement was originally signed in early February to halt turf wars between the criminal gangs headed by “Valenciano”and “Sebastian.” The agreement was brokered by civilian negotiators Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo, the archbishop of Medellin; Jaime Panesso, a member of the national peace group; Francisco Galan, an ex-combatant from leftist guerrilla group ELN, and Jorge Gaviria, a peace advisor to the Medellin mayor’s office.
Confrontations between rival gangs caused Medellin’s homicide rate to balloon to 2,178 murders in 2009, the city’s most violent year since 2005.