Internally displaced people at a makeshift camp in Bogota

Two recent reports on internal displacement in Colombia have identified regions wracked by criminal disputes as the areas most affected by this phenomenon, suggesting that organized crime, rather than armed conflict, is now the biggest cause of displacement in the country.

In 2013, nearly six out of every ten internally displaced people were from the Pacific region, reported El Tiempo. According to a report published by the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), Valle del Cauca -- located on the Pacific coast -- was the most affected department in 2013, with 32,892 registered cases.   

Choco, another department on the Pacific coast, had the highest per capita displacement rate. Other regions with high displacement levels included Antioquia, Nariño and Cauca.

Although the number of people displaced by Colombia's conflict appears to be on the decline, the country remains one of the world's displacement hotspots, with more than five-and-a-half million forced to leave their homes since 1985.   

InSight Crime Analysis

Both CODHES and the government agency tasked with supporting victims of Colombia's armed conflict attribute high levels of displacement in the Pacific region to the use of this area for drug and arms trafficking, along with other criminal activities. 

In addition to having the highest number of internally displaced people in 2013, the department of Valle del Cauca was also the country's most violent as the criminal group the Urabeños fought to wrest control of this area from remnants of the Rastrojos -- a once powerful drug trafficking organization that has gone into decline. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Displacement

Battles for control of the criminal underworld have also led to intra-urban displacement, a phenomenon in which families are forced to relocate within the same urban area. Along with the city of Medellin, where fighting between the Urabeños and the criminal group the Oficina de Envigado forced over 9,000 people to relocate in 2012, the Pacific ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco have been hard hit. Buenaventura is especially vulnerable, with the Urabeños locked in a bitter and protracted battle for control with former Rastrojos allies La Empresa.

The department of Choco is also the site of violent disputes for control of criminal activities, with 2,600 people recently forced to leave their homes as a result of fighting between the guerillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Urabeños.  

Shifts in the displacement panorama are not solely a result of fighting among criminal organizations, however -- Cauca and Nariño are both strongholds of rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Internally displaced people at an improvised camp in Bogota

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...