A local ombudsman issued a warning on Tuesday regarding the rearming of a paramilitary faction in northern Colombia, just as a different neo-paramilitary group made violent seizures in a neighboring state.
After a two month investigation, an ombudsman in the northern state of Cesar warned that former members of the AUC’s northern bloc under leader Rodrigo Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” are re-arming and beginning to show a presence in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The rearmed group consists of 11 heavily armed men, who wear Armed Forces uniforms. August 5 several inhabitants of the township informed the Ombudsman that the group offered them “security” and placed a forced taxation, according to local newspaper El Pino.
The group also operates in a nearby township, extorting farmers.
Storming town, shuttering stores
A report released by Verdad Abierta in August revealed that neo-paramilitary group Los Urabeños seized a town with 3000 inhabitants in the northeastern state of Bolivar.
The Urabeños is a remnant of right wing paramilitary groups, and alternately refer to themselves as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC).
According to the report they have for several weeks been prohibiting the distribution of food, imposed a 6 p.m. curfew, forced grocery stores to close, and demanded extortion payments of cash, food and other valuable items in the resident’s homes. The group allegedly also controls the length of telephone calls.
Local villagers were frightened not only by the siege, but also by recent murders in the area. A motorcycle taxi driver was killed in January; in July, another driver and a local business owner were both murdered; and at the beginning of August a decapitated body was found floating in a local river.
Furthermore, the Urabeños has allegedly been recruiting local minors for jobs as informants, coca leaf pickers, or guards for the machinery used to extract gold.
A journalist who worked on the report said the Urabeños restricted food “to demonstrate that they are the ‘authority’ in the region and that nothing moves with out their permission,” according to reports by InSight Crime.
- Zozobra en La Mesa ante supuesto rearme paramilitar (El Pilon)
- Tres mil personas sitiadas por ‘los Urabeños’ en Achí, Bolívar (Verdad Abierta report)
- Urabeños, Social Control and Coca Corridors in Colombia (InSight Crime)