Neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” is involved in a war with family members of an extradited paramilitary leader over the control of the northern Caribbean city of Santa Marta, according to local media.
According to the reports, family members of the extradited Hernan Giraldo, alias “El Viejo” or “El Patron” have taken up weapons and are forcing demobilized members of the defunct “Tayrona Resistance Front” to join them as they are trying to push the Urabeños, Colombia’s most powerful neo-paramilitary organization, away from the Santa Marta municipality, the traditional area of influence of the Giraldo family.
Since July, when alleged talks between the Giraldos and the Urabeños failed, at least 11 men have been found assassinated in the village of Guachaca alone. According to weekly Semana, the real number of deaths is higher as the rival groups have disappeared their victims to avoid alarming authorities.
However, authorities were alarmed when on Friday August 24 the son-in-law of Giraldo was assassinated.
The following Monday, the Urabeños officially announced a war against the family of the extradited paramilitary leader through pamphlets.
A Semana source told the weekly that there has been daily fighting between the two groups around Santa Marta, while another said the Urabeños have been pushed southward towards the town of Cienaga.
The municipality of Santa Marta, particularly the mountainous Sierra Nevada natural park, has been disputed by drug trafficking organizations and rebel groups for decades because of its strategic location on the Caribbean coast.