A recent massacre of five people attending a private party in Nariño is one of many examples of the never decreasing violence in southern Colombia.
Human rights organizations have expressed ongoing concern over the impact of drug trafficking related violence caused by illegal armed groups on Colombian citizens.
A significant part of the Colombian population has enjoyed an increased security since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe implemented his Democratic Security policy and — with U.S. help — pushed guerrillas away from the big cities and main highways.
An equally significant part of the population has not been able to enjoy this increased security, since the FARC and remnants of paramilitary organization AUC still are very active in the rural departments of Colombia, especially those close to the borders of Ecuador and Venezuela.
The department of Nariño, in the south west of the country, is one of the departments most affected by conflict in the country. With many cases of murders, rapes, kidnappings, massacres, landmines and bodies buried in mass graves, it is a good example of the direct impact drug trafficking has on the population.
In 2008 the department averaged 4 attacks a month against civilians. There were 11 reported attacks in May alone.
So why is Nariño so affected?
Where there are coca crops there are drug traffickers. In Nariño there are more than 20 thousand hectares of coca plants. A map created by Semana.com depicts the areas in Nariño controlled by paramilitary and guerrillas.
According to the map these areas overlap with those where coca crops are cultivated. Areas of cultivation also correspond closely to areas of poverty. With the presence of all these elements: paramilitary, guerrillas, drug trafficking and poverty, comes violence.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed grave concern for the human rights abuses taking
place in the department, stating that “the region suffers from some of the worst of violence and persecution in Colombia.”
A key concern of the UNHCR is the ongoing forced displacement of hundreds of civilians, especially indigenous people.
Colombia is believed to have the second highest incidence of displacement caused by internal armed conflict in the world, after Sudan.
Human rights organization CODHES reported that more than 380,000 people were displaced by violence in Colombia in 2008, a 24.5% increase in displacement from 2007, most of this displacement takes place in departments such as Nariño.
Landmines planted by guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers “in their war to dominate the territory” also have a devastating effect on the population Semana.com reported. In 2008 civilians were more greatly affected by landmines than the armed forces. According to the Vice Presidential Observatory for Human Rights, there were 27 civilians injured by mines and nine others killed, while 17 soldiers were wounded and four others were killed.
“Of these [civilian] victims, many died on the spot from severe injuries, others due to lack of access to medical care,” said a report by the standing committee.
Semana.com also reported that “according to testimony, both guerrilla and paramilitary groups use torture or rape women in front of their husbands or male relatives to pressure them to give information to enable them to locate their enemies… then kill them, as happened with the 11 indigenous Awá last February 4.”
While the number of police in the department has increased from 5,375 in 2004 to 9,235, as Semana.com says “they have not always fulfilled their task in protecting civilians.”