Colombia: paramilitaries stage "armed strike" in Urabá

<em />No more paras in Colombia?No more paras in Colombia?On Oct. 15, a group calling itself the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) shut down the entire region of Urabá, ordering all businesses from Mutata to Necoclí to close, and prohibiting transportation between these communities. This is the zona bananera, the focus of a US court case against Chiquita Brands, and for the last ten years one of the strongholds of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

In addition to the communique, the letters "AGC" were spray-painted on traffic signs and buildings throughout the region. Similar incidents also apparently occurred in the departments of César and Córdoba, and in other parts of Colombia.

The AGC appears to be the latest regrouping of the AUC. After the national paramilitary organization began demobilizing in 2004, numerous smaller ones sprung up, composed of individuals refusing to demobilize. Here in Urabá, there are three: the Aguilas Negras (or Black Eagles), the Paisas (a term that refers to people from Antioquia department generally) and Renacer. There is also a fourth group, Los Rostrosos, is centered in the Norte del Valle de Cauca, far to the south of Urabá.

While no violent incidents were reported, all of stores in the Urabá region were closed, and people stayed in their homes. No one wanted to be seen violating the order, for fear of retaliation at some later time. It's been many years since the inhabitants of Urabá have seen anything like this.

It is hard to imagine what the people in the AGC think they have in common with Jorge Eliecer Gaitán (1898-1948), a socialist who never advocated violence, even when his own followers were being assassinated by the chulavitas (1940s paramilitary network). In its logo, the AGC even uses the same image of Gaitán, with fist held above his head. (Radio Caracol, Oct. 16)

Paul Wolf on the scene in Urabá, Oct. 16

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