Violence in Colombian City of Medellin ‘Out of Control’

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 4 May 2009

The numbers of murders in Colombia's second city of Medellin have climbed to their highest level in years according to press reports whilst human rights groups yesterday described how a paramilitary death squad attempted to murder one of the city's best known youth leaders. The rate of killings has reached such a level that on just one day last month at least nine people were gunned down around the city whilst the weekend of April 4th/5th saw another 15 people murdered including a group who were killed whilst inside a church.

Yesterday's attempt to kill youth worker and community activist Yenifer Rueda Cardenas in the Comuna 13 district of the city highlighted, say human rights groups, the fact that whilst many of the dead are due to paramilitary groups fighting each other for control of the city, an important number of victims are also civil society activists.

Ms Cardenas, who has lived all her life in the city, was gravely injured in the attack by three men at around 6.30pm last night. In 2008 she had been threatened by paramilitaries for her work in highlighting human rights abuses in Comuna 13, work that she had been involved in since 2002 when her brother was murdered. As well as being a leading member of the Association of Young Christians and the Youth Network of Medellin Ms Cardenas was well-known for organising workshops and seminars with young people promoting non-violence and conflict resolution.

According to other reports the violence in Medellin has now reached such levels that the city is experiencing a form of urban displacement whereby residents of some neighbourhoods are actually fleeing to other parts of the city in fear for their lives. According to human rights groups numerous residents of the suburb of La Avranzada have fled after having been threatened but cases are not being reported officially for fear of reprisals.

Medellin, with a population of around 2.4 million, is the capital of the central Colombian region of Antioquia. Sources in the regional assembly say that over a thousand homicides have occurred in the province already this year – a figure far higher than that registered during the same period last year.



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