The 24(!) murders in Cali last weekend should set alarm bells ringing not only for local authorities but also for regional and national leaders.
The authorities’ abandonment of Colombia’s third largest city has brought about a noticeable deterioration in its appearance. Moreover, it has permitted murder statistics that on several occasions have positioned Cali as the number one spot for violent deaths in the country. The annual figures are so terrifying that they regularly amount to twice – and in some cases three times – the total number of murders in England and Wales, for example.
In Santiago de Cali, which has a population of just over two-and-a-half million, the figures have not dropped below four or five violent deaths per day on average and there have been peaks where the average has been seven. Murders mainly concern young people (20-29 years of age), who account for 30% – 40% of victims, and take place primarily within the four communes known as 13, 14, 15 and 16. Although the chief motive is to “settle scores”, others including robbery, fights and gangs have gained ground, now accounting for 10%, 7% and 13% of total murders respectively.
As regards the events of last weekend, Councillor Roy Alejandro Barreras reported a deficit of 50 billion pesos in order to deal with the situation. He did however confirm a 300% increase in the security budget (without specifying the period in which this was made). Nevertheless, this increase has not significantly contributed to reducing the number of murders. Following a dive between 2004 and 2005, in which the number of cases fell from 2161 to 1586, figures remained relatively constant between 2005 and 2011.
During this period (2005 – 2011), the number of murders fluctuated between 1465 (2008) and 1825 (2010), increasing or decreasing from one year to the next without displaying any constant downward trend. The strange thing about this matter is that, year after year, it has been possible to fully identify the places where these violent crimes occurred and the age and gender of those involved. Therefore, the problem is – in addition to budget – one of strategy and political will.
Citizens of Cali should demand State presence. We should appeal to the security forces, either the police or the army, to control a situation which has now been out of control for more than a decade. Entire neighborhoods where authority is represented by a gang leader rather than a legitimate public force; weekends, such as the last, on which two dozen murders are committed; annual statistics showing more than 600 of our young dead…. The above constitutes more than a shocking situation and merits a serious and tough intervention by the national government.