Paramilitaries threaten communities in Chocó

Colombian human rights organisations have criticised the government over deteriorating social, economic and security conditions in the department of Chocó, western Colombia, which historically is one of the regions worst affected by poverty, state neglect and conflict. The Patriotic March (Marcha Patriotica) and the Interchurch Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz) said that abandonment by the central political system has created competition between armed groups and powerful business interests to control Chocó’s rich natural resources.

On 16 February, at least 20 members of the AGC paramilitary group entered the zone of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó. In 2018, murders of social activists and forced displacement of communities rose sharply in Chocó, with the AGC heavily implicated in both. On 23 February, community leader Luis Cogollo survived an AGC assassination attempt in Jiguamiandó.

Also on 23 February, heavy rainfall caused the San Juan River to burst its banks, destroying several homes and sparking a new humanitarian emergency.

In a statement, the Patriotic March said ‘we call on the international community and human rights organisations to determinedly demand the restitution of rights of all communities in Chocó that are isolated from the panorama of democracy.’