Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | August 31, 2010

For Colombian teens, Facebook status updates include death threats

A “Death List” of 100 Colombian teens was posted on Facebook, and three from that list have been shot this month. The victims are Diego Ferney Jaramillo, 16, Eibart Alejandro Ruiz Munoz, 17, and Norbey Alexander Vargas.

Last year, the former president’s son was a target when a Facebook group appeared called “I will kill Jerónimo Uribe.” A university art student was arrested but released in March after the legal deadline for his trial expired.

The tragedy of the three dead teens happened in the town of Puerto Asis in Putumayo province in southern Colombia, a remote state near Ecuador. Authorities allege a gang, the Rastrojos, are responsible. These gangs, which are splinter groups of the paramilitaries, like the Black Eagles, the Cobras and Los Paisas, are fighting for control of the cocaine routes and operate in 24 of Colombia’s 32 states. Together, they have from 4,000 to 9,000 members.

These gangs are why 548 Colombians per day are displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In fact, parents in Puerto Asis are sending their teens away, regardless whether they are on the list.

Ironically, these gangs are known to target teens for wearing mini-skirts, for smoking, for staying out on the street after 10 p.m..

Puerto Asis has a population of 70,000 and is one of Putumayo’s largest cities. Putumayo has been Plan Colombia’s Ground Zero. When Plan Colombia started in 2000, Putumayo grew about half of Colombia’s cocaine, and was a FARC stronghold. For this reason, I was surprised to hear teens have such wide access to the Internet here.

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