Curfew Imposed by Paramilitaries in Bogota

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 23 March 2008

Parts of two poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in the Colombian capital Bogota have seen a 10pm curfew imposed by a rightwing paramilitary group. The paramilitaries have also been issuing death threats and carrying out an increasing number of selective assassinations in the 'Ciudad Bolivar' and 'Altos de Cazuca' neighbourhoods between them home to nearly a million people.

The paramilitary unit responsible, known as the 'Metropolitan Block', has specifically been targeting those that participated in the March 6th national protests which were held in Colombia against state-sponsored violence. However, killings have also been carried out against those who refuse to pay extortion demands and individuals whom the paramilitaries deem as obstructing their efforts to exert control over the two neighbourhoods.

As well as the upsurge in assassinations there has also been an increase in death threats against organisations and individuals in the two areas. Groups operating in the neighbourhoods who have received 'Metropolitan Block' threats include the CUT trade union federation, the NGO Codhes which works with displaced people, the human rights group Reiniciar, and the NGO Minga which works with vulnerable communities. Individuals including former Bogota councillor Bruno Diaz who helped to arrange the March 6th events have also been targeted.

The threats, which intensified on March 12th, were posted up around the two neighbourhoods as well as sent via e-mail to the targeted organisations and individuals. The paramilitaries have also imposed a 10pm curfew in the two neighbourhoods and patrol both areas in jeeps with darkened windows. To date the Colombian Government has not acted to protect the local population and apprehend those responsible for the killings and threats.

'Ciudad Bolivar' and 'Altos de Cazuca' are the two poorest areas of the Colombian capital where a majority of the residents live in poverty. Poor infrastructure and public services combined with other problems such as high unemployment and regular violence have created what NGOs working in the area describe as a "belt of misery in the south of the capital". Over half of the residents of the two neighbourhoods are displaced people that have fled other regions of Colombia.

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