Defense minister will tour Colombia to assess security needs

Colombia’s defense minister announced plans Thursday a month-long tour of the country to determine security needs in local communities.

Senior military and police personnel will join Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon in a tour of 21 of Colombia’s 32 departments, starting July 12. He is scheduled to speak with high-ranking officials, business groups, community leaders and ordinary citizens during the trip.

The tour begins in the city of Quibdo, capital of Colombia’s poorest department, Choco. Pinzon will visit departments that suffer from a high level of armed conflict, such as Caqueta, Cauca, Putumayo and Meta, which are traditional hubs of guerrilla activity.

President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in the troubled town of Toribio Wednesday to discuss “Plan Cauca,” a security initiative aimed at tackling the department’s ongoing violence through an increased military presence — 2,000 troops arrived in the department in recent weeks to combat guerrilla groups — and social development. 400 members of a local indigenous community occupied a nearby military base Wednesday, demanding the withdrawal of armed groups from the region.

Cauca, a hot spot for guerrilla attacks for many years, has suffered a string of incidents in recent weeks — including several in the last few days. An alleged FARC bombing killed a child and injuring five others Tuesday. A military airplane was also shot down Wednesday, killing its two crew members near the town of Jambolo, in Cauca. Initial indications pointed to the FARC being responsible for the fatal incident, but this has yet to be confirmed.

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