- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2015

Colombian gangs are using “chop houses” to protect their criminal empires.

A new report by Human Rights Watch said that the Urabeños, Empresa and Autodefensas Gaitanistas gangs have cultivated a culture where machete-wielding members dismember rivals who challenge their turf, The Global Post reported Thursday.

Buenaventura has essentially been divided up into three “invisible borders” by the gangs, with roughly 330,000 now living in fear of even walking on the wrong side of the street, The Post reported.

“The pain has broken my soul,” 74-year-old resident Luz Marina Arbolea told the newspaper. Ms. Arbolea’s son disappeared in 2010 while celebrating his 30th birthday with friends and hasn’t been seen since.

Human Rights Watch’s report said that despite President Juan Manuel Santos’ talk about making inroads against the gangs, there is little tangible evidence his policies are working.

“A year has passed since the government announced it was going to take action in Buenaventura, and powerful criminal groups are still terrorizing residents,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch’s Americas director.

The report said that over 13,500 people have left the area due to violence and 32 dismembered bodies have been found since 2013.



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