New Paramilitary Offensive Threatens to Displace Communities in Chocó


On December 31st, 2019, as residents of Pogue, Bojaya, celebrated the new year, between 300 and 600 paramilitaries arrived to exert control on the civilian population. According to members of the community, the armed men handed out gifts to children while threatening to kill any leader who spoke out about their activities.


The surrounding area has been heavily militarized by the Colombian Armed Forces since Colombia's largest guerrilla, FARC, demobilized in 2016. The Colombian Armed Forces had set up a military checkpoint in the adjacent community of Vigia del Fuerte at the time of the paramilitary incursion. It is hard to explain how paramilitary activity could so easily occur so close to Colombian military posts. Members of the community have long denounced the collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and right-wing paramilitary groups.


As an anonymous community member, speaking to France 24, said "it is not uncommon to see the [Army and the Paramilitaries] speaking together, they even refill their gasoline near the military checkpoints", adding "there is a new paramilitary offensive and they have reached Bocas de Opogadó, where they spent more than six months controlling these communities. With the aggravating fact that there were selective killings, on December 31 the Pogue community was surprised with the arrival of between 300 and 600 men. So far it is not known what happened to the civilian population because there is no communication there."



The following day, on Wednesday, January 1st, five men dressed in black, arrived at the dock of Docordó, municipal head of the San Juan River, in the Department of Chocó. The armed men presented themselves as paramilitaries and told the Afro-Colombian and indigenous population that they were there to take control over the civilian population.


The paramilitaries docked only 150 meters away from the Mayor's Office and the central square, where hours before Elio Carlino Moreno Ibargüen took office as mayor of the San Juan River, event in the Marines and the National Police were present.


The alleged paramilitaries announced that they would take territorial control in Bajo San Juan and Bajo Calima in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca and in the San Juan River, department of Chocó.


The indigenous and Afro-descendant population who knew about the armed action that inhabit Unión Agua Clara, Isla Mono, Charambirá, Chamapuro, Docordó, Cacagual, Puerto Pizario, Unión San Juan, Puerto Guadualito and Pichimá Quebrada expressed their fear of being pressured by illegal armed group and even being forced to flee to survive.


The complicity of the Colombian Military and National Police Forces is evident by the ease in which these irregular armed structures are able to operate in the region. Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities face the risk of assassination, confinement and forced displacement if no effective measures are taken to protect the physical integrity of the civilian population.

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