Some 1,600 people in west Colombia are running out of food as combat between illegal armed groups make it impossible for them to get supplies, according to the United Nations.
Human Rights Affairs of the UN (OCHA) sent out an alert on Monday over the situation near Nuqui, Choco where illegal armed groups have banned the residents of six hamlets to leave their communities for months.
Guerrilla group ELN and paramilitary group AGC have been at war over control over the Pacific coast for years. This escalated last year after the demobilization of the FARC, until then Colombia’s largest group.
The area is home to some of the country’s most promising drug trafficking routes and mining titles.
According to the locals, the illegal armed groups have been laying landmines and removing communications equipment from the elders, those in charge of communicating with government authorities.
We ask respect for our communities. Just like we have respected them, we ask them not to attack us. We ask them not to use landmines near the reservations, that they don’t take the cellphones of our community leaders and that they don’t recruit our children.
Indigenous leader Javier Arrieta via La FM
The Pacific coast where Nuqui lies is used for exporting cocaine by trug traffickers associated with whoever controls the lawless jungle region suffering state abandonment.
The ELN, which is conducting peace talks with the government, and the AGC, which has agreed to surrender under conditions, are both vying for control over the strategic and traditionally abandoned region.
Choco, where much of the fighting between the ELN and the AGC takes place, has traditionally been neglected or abandoned by the state.
Colombia’s state authorities, particularly the security forces, have come under severe criticism for failing to assume authority and control in areas previous controlled by the FARC and its 14,000 members.
While the government was able to enter some areas where for decades the FARC’s rule was law, many are now being vied for by other non-state actors.