Colombia must dismantle criminal networks, corruption in port city: U.N

March 19, 2021 1:43 PM EDT

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By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia must dismantle criminal networks and corruption in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura via its legal system and social investment to reestablish security and guarantee human rights for its residents, a United Nations agency said on Friday.

Buenaventura, with a population of 432,000, is marked by regular clashes between armed groups fighting for control of the country's main Pacific port and drug trafficking routes, with poverty-stricken civilians getting caught in the middle.

"The violence is destroying the culture and social fabric of the black and indigenous communities who live in the region, who represent more than 90% of the population," said Juliette de Rivero, representative for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, in a statement following a trip to the city.

So far this year Buenaventura has seen 41 homicides, 13 forced disappearances, and the forced displacement of more than 8,000 people, on top of threats to local activists and human rights defenders, the U.N. Office for Human Rights in Colombia has found.

The agency urged Colombian authorities to come together to implement agreements reached with Buenaventura residents following recent protests, as well as the peace deal reached in 2016 between the government and the now demobilized guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The peace deal ended the leftist rebel group's part in Colombia's armed conflict, which has left 260,000 dead and displaced millions.

The U.N. has called on Colombia to build more presence in remote zones battered by violence and poverty with more social investment and not just rely on the police and military.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Richard Chang)

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