Police said Monday that they have arrested 33 members of local and national crime organizations in an offensive to curb an ongoing turf war in Buenaventura, Colombia’s largest port city on the Pacific coast.
The arrests followed days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, Todd Howland, visited the city and urged authorities to act against the violence that has gripped Buenaventura since 2012.
Eight of the suspects were already in jail at the time of their official arrest, while the remaining 25 alleged neo-paramilitaries were free.
The alleged members of neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” and local crime syndicate “La Empresa” are accused of being responsible for at least 20 homicides that took place in the city since in early 2012 when the neo-paramilitary group began an offensive against La Empresa, which received the support of the Urabeños’ biggest rival, drug trafficking organization “Los Rastrojos.”
Apart from homicide, the suspects will be charged with conspiracy, extortion and the possession of illegal firearms.
PROFILE: Los Urabeños
The war on Buenaventura has been part of a larger offensive carried out by the Urabeños, who last year began taking over crucial drug trafficking routes from the Rastrojos while pushing the latter deeper into their stomping ground in the southwest of Colombia.
Several members of La Empresa, which traditionally ran the Buenaventura underworld, were displaced to Cali where they began infighting with local gangs from there.
Buenaventura is Colombia’s largest port city and located on the country’s Pacific coast. The city is considered of great importance for criminal organizations using the port for the import of contraband and the export of drugs.