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Colombian Cartels And Illegal Groups Execute People Breaking Lockdown

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Colombian Cartels And Illegal Groups Execute People Breaking Lockdown

Armed Colombian cartels have been taking the law into their own hands and threatening or even killing people who don't comply with their strict coronavirus lockdown rules.

Human Rights Watch warned on Wednesday (15 July) that at least nine people in three different states have been assassinated in recent months for either refusing to adhere to the lockdown restrictions or by opposing them publicly.

In Tumaco, a town on the Pacific coast, gangs have enforced their own rules, which include banning the local residents from fishing.

The port, which is one of the most dangerous places in the country, now has a 5pm curfew - much stricter than the official government curfews.

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A soldier wears a hazmat suit in an area of Colombia with a high number of Covid-19 cases. Credit: PA
A soldier wears a hazmat suit in an area of Colombia with a high number of Covid-19 cases. Credit: PA

In a different region, a community leader was killed in June after he sent a letter which alerted local authorities to illegal activity.

Edison Leon warned officials that a group called 'La Mafia' was forcing locals to man a health chekcpoint in Putumayo, in the south-west of the country. He was killed by an unnamed armed group.

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, said: "Draconian punishments imposed by armed groups to prevent the spread of Covid-19 mean that people in remote and impoverished communities across Colombia risk being attacked and even killed if they leave their homes."

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Vivanco said that the groups include a number of different rebels, including dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, as well as the National Liberation Army. Many are also involved in drug trafficking.

He explained that they are using the pandemic both as a way to show their power, to gain credibility in the public's minds and also through a real panic about the virus itself.

He added: "There is a genuine fear of an outbreak within their ranks."

Armed soldiers in Colombia's capital Bogota. Credit: PA
Armed soldiers in Colombia's capital Bogota. Credit: PA
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Speaking to The Guardian, one community leader in Putumayo said: "They have shut down transport between villages, and when someone is suspected to have Covid-19 they are told to leave the region or they will be killed.

"And people have no choice but to obey because they never see the government here."

The investigation by Human Rights Watch discovered that illegal armed groups are enforcing lockdown rules in at least 11 of 32 states in the South American country.

They're using violence to impose their control in at least five of them, warning citizens by using physical pamphlets or through WhatsApp messages.

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One of them, distributed by the National Liberation Army in the north of the country said that the fighters are 'forced to kill people in order to preserve lives'.

It warned that the only people allowed out were those who work in food stores, bakeries or pharmacies.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News

Amelia Ward
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