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HOUSES OF HORROR: Colombian drug gangs dismember witnesses alive in 'chop houses'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/24/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Body parts are then thrown into sea.

The screams of people being dismembered alive with chainsaws echo throughout the Colombian port city of Buenaventura. People who live here say they hear the cries late at night, as the local drug gangs exact their vengeance against those who dare to cross them.

Thousands of Buenaventura's residents have been forced to flee as a result. Some 50,687 people have been forcibly displaced in the past three years, according to official figures.

Thousands of Buenaventura's residents have been forced to flee as a result. Some 50,687 people have been forcibly displaced in the past three years, according to official figures.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/24/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Buenaventura, Colombia, murder, dismemberment, drug gangs


LOS ANGELES,CA (Catholic online) - Local gangsters have been spotted leaving late at night from the "chop houses," which are warrens of wooden shacks on stilts, carrying plastic bags with dismembered body parts that are thrown then into the ocean.

With a population of roughly 370,000 people, Buenaventura is a key smuggling point for cocaine being transported by sea. The drugs are then trucked through Mexico into the United States. This grisly fact marks Buenaventura as one of Colombia's most violent cities.

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Fishermen report coming across body parts floating in the waters of Colombia's main port on the Pacific coast.

The gangs here fight over control of Buenaventura's waterfront areas where the cocaine is stored and shipped, putting communities in the middle of drug turf wars.

"The chop-up houses do exist even though the government finds it hard to accept that they do," said a nun and women's rights leader says. "Women in our support group have heard the screams at night. They fear that their sons, daughters and husbands who've disappeared have been dismembered. People are too afraid to act."

Mutilated body parts of at least a dozen people have been found washed up along Buenaventura's shores over the past year and a half.

In testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch (HRW), officials say that when they visited Buenaventura in November 2013, they found a city that was wracked by "terror in no-man's land" and at the mercy of criminal gangs linked to former right-wing paramilitaries. These outfits demobilized as part of a controversial peace process from 2003 onwards but then returned to crime.

"We found a city where entire neighborhoods were dominated by powerful paramilitary successor groups - known as the Urabenos and the Empresa - who restrict residents' movements, recruit their children, extort their businesses, and routinely engage in horrific acts of violence against anyone who defies their will," Jose Miguel Vivanco, HRW's Americas director, told reporters.

"These mafia are terrorizing communities. The fact that people disappear and dismembered parts of bodies continue to appear on Buenaventura's beaches shows that the horror has no limit," he said.

Thousands of Buenaventura's residents have been forced to flee as a result. Some 50,687 people have been forcibly displaced in the past three years, according to official figures.

Buenaventura has reported the highest numbers of residents uprooted from their homes every year since 2011 and is home to the largest number of people registered missing in Colombia. At least 150 people disappeared in the city from 2010 to 2013, HRW says.

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