Starving Colombia: the neighborhood where 15 children died in 6 months

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Diana Rojas doesn’t care if the paramilitaries kill her. The government of Colombia’s far-right President Ivan Duque killed two of her three children, according to the single mother.

Rojas is from La Fortaleza, a slum between the city of Cucuta and the Venezuelan border that is home to some 1,000 families.

In this neighborhood alone, 15 children have died of starvation in the past six months, resident Manny Blackberry told Colombia Reports on Sunday.

“Including mine, there’s like 15 or 16,” the single mother confirmed from the hospital where she was trying to save her last surviving son.

Even before former Senator Susana Correa of Duque’s Democratic Center party became the director of the Social Prosperity Department (DPS), the monthly $42 stipend was not enough to survive the coronavirus crisis, according to Blackberry.

The 37-year-old engineer lost his job in March and has been making an extra $9 a month filling potholes and charging voluntary contributions for two days a week.

Still, “we eat once a day, in the afternoon so we don’t go to bed hungry,” Blackberry told Colombia Reports.

The engineer’s three children are alive, but the food shortage did not just kill Rojas’ two youngest sons, he said.

In the same family, that of Diana, four of her cousins and nephews died, so that’s six…. Four died in another family and on the lower plain — because we live way up the hill — five died, so that’s 15 I’m aware of. My mom is among the elderly of whom another four or five died.

 Manny Blackberry

Image: Manny Blackberry

The so-called “Ingreso Solidario” program never provided enough to feed a family, but payments have been disappearing after Duque made his party member director of the DSP.

Correa was meant to “help improve the targeting of social programs for the vulnerable population,” the president tweeted in late June, but “they’re ripping us off,” the engineer said.

“The first three months were fine,” according to the single mother, but since the former senator took office payments have gone missing, according to the residents of La Esperanza.

I go the bank and they tell me that I have already cashed it, and DPS says that it is the platform.

Manny Blackberry

While DPS is blaming bank Davivienda for the newly arisen problems, bank clerks have said Correa is “ripping off the people, they say so themselves,” according to Rojas.

Colombia Reports emailed the former senator on Friday after finding Correa received complaints from throughout the country, but received no reply.

“They’re making fun of us because we’re poor,” the single mother from La Esperanza said.

Image: Manny Blackberry

The irregular payments forced Rojas to sell her body on the streets of Cucuta to try to feed her children, the single mother said.

She is hardly the only one from La Esperanza to resort to prostitution, according to Blackberry. “Women older than 16 here have to sell their bodies in order to help out at home.”

The former engineer’s wife is not one of them. “I got a warrior,” he said.

We have struggled, suffered hunger and we cry, and if there is only for the children we endure, but she doesn’t do it or considers doing so as she says it is shameful.

Manny Blackberry

His neighbor said she would probably hit the streets again if she was able to leave the hospital where her only surviving son was being treated for undernourishment.

Image: Manny Blackberry

Colombia Reports was only able to speak to the residents of La Esperanza over the phone and without the knowledge of their neighbors. The paramilitaries don’t tolerate outsiders.

“I went there once and they pulled their guns on me,” a psychologist from Cucuta who wished to remain anonymous told Colombia Reports on Sunday. “That was like three years ago.”

“Los Rastrojos” continue to impose their rule with an iron fist, especially now ELN guerrillas are trying to take control over important smuggling routes.

“They work like the militias [on the Venezuelan side of the border] and change guards every 15 to 29 days so that nobody become familiar and loses respect,” said Blackberry.

Image: Manny Blackberry

When asked when Rojas saw the police last, she laughed. “Those guys don’t come here,” the single mother said.

Because Colombia reports has the obligation to protect its sources, the residents of La Fortaleza agreed to use false names although Rojas said “I’m not afraid,” least of all of the government.

“It’s because of them I lost my children,” the single mother said before hanging up. “I need to find this injection they told me to get for the boy.”

This post was originally posted on Colombia News | Colombia Reports – View Original Article

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