The people of the western Colombian department of Choco have lost faith in the Colombian state, feeling totally abandoned in the face of increased violence in the Pacific region, the governor said Thursday.
Governor Luis Gilberto Murrillo met with Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon in Bogota Wednesday to demand increased military support for Choco which has been shut down by the FARC that imposed an “armed strike” prohibiting all transport in the poor Pacific department.
In an interview with newspaper El Tiempo, the governor said illegal armed groups are increasing their presence in the region because of a lack of state forces and the people of Choco have lost confidence in the national government.
The armed strikes imposed by the Urabeños in January and the FARC last week have worsened the economic crisis in the region that has become so bad that according to El Tiempo, the governor doesn’t even have an office.
Murillo asked President Juan Manuel Santos to visit Colombia’s poorest department like the president did in other regions when illegal armed groups disrupted public order. “We invite him to come to Choco, it is Colombian territory,” the governor stressed.
Defense Minister Pinzon has agreed to increase military presence in the department in order to ensure free movement by land, air, and sea.
While one of the richest departments in natural resources, Choco has the highest poverty rate of the country. Its Pacific coastline increasingly is used by illegal armed groups like the FARC, the Urabeños and the Rastrojos to traffic drugs from Colombia to Central America.