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 / 20 JAN 2016

Media outlets are heralding a little-known Colombian drug trafficker as the top priority for US law enforcement now that Joaquín “El…

COLOMBIA / 31 MAY 2011

Two mayoral candidates were abducted and murdered in northern Colombia in an attack attributed to the FARC guerrilla group, providing…

COLOMBIA / 7 OCT 2019

The ex-FARC mafia's 18th Front has announced that it will stand in alliance with the new guerrilla movement led by…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…