Fighting between drug gangs makes Cali the most violent city in Colombia, with a murder rate of 75.7 homicides per 100,000 residents, international news agency AFP said Wednesday.
According to the report, the violence in Colombia’s third-largest city is due mainly to fighting between small and medium trafficking organizations. These organizations formed after the collapse and fragmentation of large drug cartels such as the Orejuela brothers’ Cali cartel which, alongside Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, dominated the drug trade up until the early 90s.
A 2011 UN report said although Colombia remained the world’s top producer of cocaine, its production had dropped dramatically. This had increased fighting between gangs, however.
The director of Colombian research institute Fundacion Seguridad y Democracia, Alfredo Rangel, told AFP, “It’s no longer a fight to increase the business, but to keep it. They now export half the amount of cocaine they exported ten years ago. […] Profitability has diminished. Now [Mexican cartels] control passage to the United States and they dictate the price. With less profits to distribute comes more violence.”
Colombia as a whole has experienced a huge drop in murders. In 1990 Colombia’s murder rate was 80 homicides per 100,000 citizens, by 2010 it dropped to 33.7 homicides per 100,000. Located near major drug production areas and trafficking routes, Cali has not experienced such a drop.
Cali’s former mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina told AFP, “Cali is located 25 minutes from the largest marijuana production area, the Central Corridor. It’s near big cocaine processing labs in the Cannon of Garrapatas and the Western Corridor. It’s six hour from coca plantations in the Amazon and near the Pacific coast, and it’s three hours from the port of Buenaventura, where guns come in and drugs go out.”
Cali resident Alejandro told AFP, “The high school looks closed, but you have to cross three [gang territories] to get there. Gangs defend these drug selling areas with blood and firepower.”
According to the report, Cali police said parts of the city were so heavily controlled by gangs that officers no longer patrolled them.
Ospina said gang violence would be better controlled though increased arms control and the legalization of drugs.