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‘Urabeños’ bring northern Colombia to a halt

posted by Aylish O'Driscoll
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Neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” expand their shut-down of northern Colombia, imposing a curfew on the entire population, shutting all business and trade, and bringing public transport to a halt.

{japopup type=”image” content=”pics/2012/mphoto/communication_autodefensas.jpg” title=”Communication from the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia” }Communication from the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia{/japopup}

In a pamphlet, spread around in the areas wher the neo-paramilitaries imposed the shut-down, the Urabeños say the strike is dedicated to “the dedication and sacrifice” of their murdered leader “Giovanni” “for the fight to defend the rights of the less-favored classes of our abandoned regions.”

The very public show of defiance by the criminal gang — in retaliation for the killing of their leader Juan de Dios Usuga, alias Giovanni by Colombian armed forces in the early hours of January 1 — began Wednesday, and is planned to continue through Thursday as their former leader is buried.

Though police and government officials have been quick to downplay the extent of the strike, encouraging shop owners to open and transport companies to operate, the affected areas — including the northeastern Baja Cauca region of Antioquia, the coastal regions of Cordoba, and the Caribbean tourist city of Santa Marta, Magdalena — remain almost completely shut down.

Local business owners report fearing for their lives should they disobey the orders of the gang, after receiving personal visits from gang members, while pamphlets were distributed by the Urabeños warning the public to comply with their requests.

The Urabeños, who called the strike under their original name, the “Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia,” are the country’s strongest neo-paramilitary group and considered largely in charge of the drug trafficking routes to the Caribbean.

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