BUENAVENTURA, Colombia (AP) — A Catholic bishop in Colombia hopes holy water will curb violence in a city struggling with crime and corruption.
Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya traveled on a fire truck to some of Buenaventura's most crime-ridden neighborhoods on Saturday, sprinkling water that he had blessed in an attempt to thwart drug trafficking gangs and other illegal groups.
"Blood has run through the streets," said Jaramillo, who wore religious robes and a crucifix around his neck on his tour of the city on the Pacific coast.
The occasion was sometimes festive despite the solemnity of the message. Jaramillo stopped to bless a group of children in one neighborhood, and the fire truck on which he rode was festooned with green and yellow balloons.
He said the ceremony aimed to show solidarity with afflicted communities and tell illegal groups that "you can't destroy the life of a community, we're united."
Rival gangs have been fighting for control of the illegal drug trade in Buenaventura, which has seen an increase in murders, rapes, kidnappings and disappearances since last year, according to Jaramillo. He said security forces and the courts are working to reduce the city's mayhem, but that its citizens "can't wait for the state to act" and must support each other however they can.
"The suffering of one is the suffering of all," he said. "We're not afraid."
Jaramillo became bishop in Buenaventura two years ago.