Paramilitaries strengthening territorial control during pandemic

Colombia’s Ombudsman has issued an alert over paramilitaries and other armed groups which, it says, have consolidated control in several zones. According to the Ombusdman, these groups have imposed measures – through threats – such as the restriction of movement and control of prices of essential products and medical supplies.

In some cases, this has prevented medicines and food from reaching areas where they are needed. There have also been at least ten murders attributed to punishment of people who did not comply with orders, including two people killed in an attack on a medical centre. Armed groups have forcibly displaced migrants and indigenous people, while also stoking racism.

Paramilitaries remain highly active in the Pacific and Caribbean coastal regions and in the northeast, where a delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor visited in February to hear from communities impacted by the AGC paramilitary group. In addition to targeted killings, paramilitary groups have committed forced disappearance, extortion and threats, while they also control drugs trafficking and illegal mining operations. Furthermore, they have violently impeded implementation of core elements of the peace process such as land restitution and voluntary crop substitution, with many people killed who were working on these programmes.

On 4 May, Clive Efford MP, who was a delegate on the February delegation, raised concern in the British parliament over AGC activity in Choc√≥, while also addressing the security forces’ response.