BY ABRAHAM MAHSHIE
This impoverished port town on the Pacific coast has become ground zero for the Colombian government’s U.S.-funded efforts to quell a Marxist guerrilla rebellion and eradicate the drug trade, which serves as the group’s main source of financing.
Caught in the middle are Tumaco’s 100,000 or so residents.
Half of them live in poverty in Colombia’s “red zone,” where deadly violence is a constant threat. Late last month, two police officers were kidnapped and executed on the outskirts of town. Two other officers met the same fate in February. Guerrillas pay $1,000 to anyone who kills a cop, police say.
“The national government has practically abandoned us,” said Santo Banguera, 50, an Afro-Colombian farmer who cultivates a small plot of land and lives with his wife and four sons in a wooden shack. “There is fear here.”