HomeNewsViolence Against Women: A Weapon for Criminals in Tibú, Colombia
NEWS

Violence Against Women: A Weapon for Criminals in Tibú, Colombia

COLOMBIA / 2 JUL 2021 BY ALICIA FLÓREZ AND LAURA NATHALIA ÁVILA EN

Authorities and civil society alike are alarmed by how acts of criminal violence appear to be specifically targeting women in the troubled Colombian border town of Tibú.

In the first half of 2021, at least 10 cases of femicide have been reported in the town, in the eastern department of Norte de Santander, according to government statistics cited by La Opinión. This figure represents a 400 percent increase in comparison with levels seen in 2020 and is the highest reported by the National Police in five years.

The most notable recent case came in June when one of Tibú's foremost prosecutors, Esperanza Navas, was shot dead in her home by gunmen who fled on a motorcycle. While it is unknown if Navas was targeted due to her work, she was overseeing around 400 criminal cases linked to homicides and coca cultivation.

The case brought a measure of national attention to the situation as Colombia's Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, publicly condemned Navas' murder and vowed to bring her killers to justice.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Gender and Crime

Nine of these murders reportedly took place within just one month and may not have happened in a vacuum.

In early May, La Opinión reported on the existence of a list being sent around on messaging services bearing the names of 25 women that had allegedly been marked as targets.

“They did not sign it with the name of an armed group, but many [of these women] have left the town and left everything behind, ... most were from Venezuela, although there were local people as well [on the list]," one woman living in Tibú, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the local newspaper.

Other residents spoke of having seen a video, which showed photographs of over 50 women in Tibú who were labeled as "undesirables" for having alleged links to security forces. It's unclear at this moment which criminal group may be behind the attacks.

At least 20 women have reportedly left the town in recent months, including two nurses who allegedly received threats after providing medical services to injured members of the security forces.

Only one alleged suspect has been named for two of the killings. Prosecutors have blamed Willinton Henao, alias "Mocho Olmedo," a reported leader of the dissident 33rd Front of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia –  FARC). The National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional –  ELN) also has a presence in the municipality. Acts of violence against public security forces have been attributed to the ELN, as well as urban criminal gangs dedicated to microtrafficking.

InSight Crime Analysis

What is happening in Tibú is yet another example of how women and their bodies are exploited by criminal groups to terrorize the civilian population and send a message to opposing armed groups.

In Tibú, women have been killed for being prosecutors, for allegedly collaborating with the police, due to their personal connections or for working in public administration.

Violence against women has been deployed to control their behavior in a country where female prosecutors like Esperanza Navas remain a rarity.

SEE ALSO: Wave of Murders Hits Small Coca-Producing Town in Northern Colombia

This is not a new phenomenon, neither for Colombia nor for Norte de Santander. During the 1990s, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia –  AUC), a brutal right-wing paramilitary army, used sexual violence in the area of Tibú to control communities as part of their territorial expansion.

"In the context of military operations or where there is drug trafficking, women are objectified, ... which makes femicide a punishment or a mechanism to inspire fear," Yamile Roncacio, director of the Colombian Femicide Foundation (Fundación Feminicidios Colombia), told La Silla Vacía. 

The region of Catatumbo, where Tibú is located, is currently one of Colombia's most strategic criminal hotspots. It is one of the country's major coca-growing areas and provides easy access to Venezuela. Gender-based violence has intensified within this panorama and has been normalized by armed groups and society at large.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 18 JUN 2021

Colombia's hippos are a well-documented problem. Growing astonishingly fast in number, potentially devastating to the local ecosystem and perhaps lethal…

COLOMBIA / 28 SEP 2021

The recent dismantling of a migrant smuggling ring in Colombia has revealed the routes, corruption networks and modus operandi used…

ARGENTINA / 27 JUL 2021

Drug charges against a woman in Argentina were dropped after prosecutors learned that she had agreed to be a drug…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…