In many parts of Colombia, people who violate lockdown measures will have to worry about a lot more than COVID-19. Rebel groups and drug gangs have been enforcing curfews and lockdowns stricter than anything the government has in place and killing some of those who disobey, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The organization says the armed groups, many of which emerged from the demobilization of left-wing guerrilla and right-wing paramilitary groups after a 2016 ceasefire, operate in areas where the authority of the central government is weak or nonexistent. Under their local lockdowns in some states, people are banned from leaving their homes even to seek treatment when sick.
"They have shut down transport between villages, and when someone is suspected to have COVID-19 they are told to leave the region or they will be killed," a community leader in Putumayo province tells the Guardian. "And people have no choice but to obey because they never see the government here." Human Rights Watch says the National Liberation Army, a leftist dissident group involved in drug trafficking, has handed out pamphlets saying it was "forced to kill people in order to preserve lives" because people hadn't "respected the orders to prevent COVID-19." Colombia has reported around 160,000 coronavirus infections and almost 6,000 deaths, reports the Miami Herald. (Read more Colombia stories.)