(Translated by Rudy Heller, CSN Volunteer Translator)
January 25 — More than 600 people occupy the Senior Center in Puerto Claver, in the municipality of El Bagre, after being displaced by paramilitary groups who, for several months, have committed various abuses against the inhabitants of the region.
The paramilitaries known as “Gaitanistas” are responsible for the forced displacement of residents. Several families have taken to the country roads and thus, on January 8 have started a new exodus towards Puerto Claver, which lies in the municipality of El Bagre, in the state of Antioquia.
According to Aheramigua (the Association of Agroecologial and Mining Fraternities of Guamocó) this is a very serious humanitarian crisis, in the face of which they are seeking help from the area’s Human Rights Verification Commission which has been checking the area. Aheramigua will give support to the local communities until the crisis is resolved.
Reports have also appeared of food and water shortages in the Senior Center where the 600 displaced individuals are now housed. This is in addition to the sanitation problems because the center only has two bathrooms to meet the needs of such a large group.
And the Authorities?
Despite the gravity of the humanitarian crisis, authorities are unable to resolve the situation. According to Prensa Rural, the people of Santa Rosa de Osos have been aiding the displaced population. The Antioquia Governor’s office told Aheramigua that they will not be sending out anybody because their safety cannot be ensured. Paradoxically, Angel Mesa, mayor of El Bagre, has asked the displaced to return to their homes.
Several of the people in Puerto Claver have chosen not to give testimony or share videos for fear of reprisals. However, some have noted that any prospect for a safe return has been eliminated by the region’s ongoing encounters between the paramilitaries, the Army and members of insurgent groups. The promise of a greater army and police presence, rather than generating tranquility, only raises fears among the population.
A Humanitarian Drama
The communities say that the paramilitaries persecute and stigmatize them because of the insurgent presence in the region. In 2014, residents carried out a dialogue process for the various armed parties in hopes of securing regional peace agreements.
Despite these commitments, fighting and deaths have not stopped. In September 2015 while campaigning for the mayor, Angel Zuleta, the mayor’s nephew, was assassinated by paramilitaries at the location called “la Y”. Days later, parish priest Edgar Monsalve Trujillo was threatened by paramilitaries who then forced him to flee the region. The same fate befell two girls from the Rural School in Puerto Claver who, after being forced to sweep, were then forced to wear signs on which paramilitaries accused them of being insurgency informants. Wrought by terror, their families had to remove them from school and send them away from the region.
Armed confrontations between paramilitaries and FARC members add to this climate of violence and threats. Prensa Rural states that in November 2015, these encounters left at least 4 dead. Small groups began the exodus seeking to secure their safety, even amid the end of year celebrations.
More Deaths in the Bajo Cauca Sub-Region
Early in January, paramilitary groups forcefully disappeared Jair de Jesús Suárez, a relative of one of the Aheramigua members. They also forcefully disappeared Juvenal Moreno Galindo and Francisco Manuel Moreno, residents of La Primavera. Days later the National Army found the dismembered bodies of the three desaparecidos (forcefully disappeared individuals).
This motivated 134 families from El Coral, La Primavera, La Llana, Moqui Abajo, El Osa, El Castillo, Moqui Arriba and Arenales to seek refuge in the Senior Center in the municipal center of El Bagre.
The seriousness of these events motivated more people to flee in fear of paramilitary reprisal. Paramilitary groups took advantage of their absence by destroying the contents of their homes, engraving walls with death threats, and stealing livestock and crops.
All this happens before the impotent municipal and military authorities, while communities insist on the existence of paramilitary checkpoints on secondary roads, and the presence of armed plainclothes paramilitaries in places like Puerto Claver. The climate of fear has also caused many truck drivers to avoid traveling to the area, which has decreased food intake in the area.
Residents are waiting to be served by the local government and bodies of control. Until further notice, they will remain at the Puerto Claver Senior Center.