Excmo. Sr. Presidente Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia
Sr. Fiscal General Francisco Barbosa Delgado, Attorney General of Colombia
March 13, 2021
We are concerned for the safety of church leaders who are speaking out against the continued armed violence in Colombia. We are especially concerned that Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department, is receiving death threats. The bishop told a radio journalist on March 3 that he received a death threat via WhatsApp and was warned he could become the victim of a bomb attack.
Dozens of illegal armed groups are active along the Pacific coast because of the region’s strategic importance for cocaine exports. In Buenaventura, residents are terrorized by turf wars between factions of criminal groups. In the radio interview during which he publicly disclosed the death threat against him, Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo said that “some powerful groups in Buenaventura are upset that people talk about things that are happening here.”
We are concerned paramilitaries are succeeding in seizing control over several districts of Buenaventura because the local security forces are complicit in allowing them to do so. The paramilitary groups are trying to impose their control in the city through fear, various extortionist tactics, and advertising what they call a “social cleansing” in the city. In the process, they are forcibly recruiting youth. The ongoing violence in Buenaventura is a clear example of how impunity for paramilitary actors threatens the true possibility of peace.
We strongly urge that you
- improve efforts to quell the armed violence in the region, as requested of your government on March 4 by fourteen Catholic bishops from the Pacific region
- carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into all threats and acts of intimidation against Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice
- if requested, provide protection measures for Bishop Ruben Dario Jaramillo, in accordance with his wishes
- immediately finalize the National Commission on Security Guarantees’ public policy for dismantling armed groups and their networks
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martínez