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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Violence Flares in Colombian City Patrolled by Military

BOGOTA – Two young men were found dismembered in the Pacific port of Buenaventura, the first known murders in Colombia’s most dangerous city since the military took charge of security on March 21, Colombian authorities said Monday.

The remains were discovered over the weekend and the process of identification is still under way, chief medical examiner Carlos Eduardo Valdes told RCN La Radio.

The victims’ ages have been estimated at 16 and 22, respectively, he said.

The militarization of law enforcement in Buenaventura “has worked quite well, because we have had 22 days without a murder,” the city’s Catholic bishop, Monsignor Hector Epalza, said in comments to RCN La Radio, while adding that more needs to be done.

“Evil is entrenched and deeply rooted in Buenaventura, which generates terror and fear in the population,” the prelate said. “That is why I continue insisting that what is required is genuine social investment that improves the situation of the population.”

The city, which suffers from 50 percent unemployment and dire poverty, receives only a pittance from Colombia’s national government, the bishop said.

At least 13 of the more than 500 Buenaventura residents killed by gangs so far this year were dismembered, Epalza noted.

The militarization of some parts of the largely Afro-Colombian city came a day after New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a report indicating that “entire neighborhoods were dominated by powerful paramilitary successor groups.”

Those gangs, known as Los Urabeños and La Empresa, both successors to the now-defunct AUC paramilitary federation, are fighting a bloody battle for control of arms and drug trafficking in the strategic port.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced an aid package for Buenaventura.

The plan includes money to build 341 free residences for some of the thousands of people forced from their homes, construction of a school for 2,400 students and a $400 million loan to the municipal government to spur investment and job creation.

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