Rival drug-trafficking gangs were embroiled in a rolling gun battle on the streets of Buenaventura that terrorized residents of an impoverished neighborhood for more than two hours Tuesday evening. Videos posted by witnesses hearing the crackle of gunfire show members of Colombia’s security forces slowly advancing through the Juan XXIII neighborhood to reestablish order in the country’s Pacific port city, and inhabited by a majority Afro-Colombian population.
According to Buenaventura’s Secretary of Security, Arlintong Agudelo, the armed confrontation between the “Shotas” and “Espartanos” gangs erupted over a territorial dispute within a larger criminal organization and drugs cartel known as “El Local.” President Petro ordered “Police and Navy to react immediately” with news of the violence. Colombia’s first Black Vice-President, Francia Márquez, assured that “restoring peace” in Buenaventura is a government priority.
Having stated at the inauguration on August 7 that a Petro government will bring “total peace” to Colombia, during the first three weeks of the new administration, 11 massacres have taken place in the country, the most recent, killing three members of an indigenous community in the department of Nariño, and four youngsters in Cúcuta, departmental capital of Norte de Santander. On Saturday, three men were killed by motorized hitmen in the coastal community of Montes de Barranquilla, and on Sunday, two radio journalists who were returning from covering a religious and popular festival on Colombian coast, were killed near Fundación, Magdalena.
According to the Institute for Peace and Development (Indepaz), 72 massacres have been committed so far this year, including 11 under the country’s first leftist government. The murder of the indigenous social leader Adriana del Rocío Guerrero over the weekend, raised the number of activists and human rights defenders killed in Colombia this year to 122.