Cure Violence, a Chicago-based organization that has strategically reduced violence in some of the more violent areas in the U.S, have Colombia on their list of potential international partners.
The Cure Violence project that became famous after being featured in the 2011 documentary “The Interrupters,” has already set up partnerships in various dangerous communities around the world, including war torn Iraq and and infamously dangerous Honduras. Cure Violence is now looking at several other international projects, with Colombia on the list as one of their “exploring partners,” and potential Cure Violence sites.
“We’ve had the initial conversations about conducting assessments in Colombia and Brazil and hoping to start the assessments early next year,” Cure Violence’s International Director, Brent Decker, told Colombia Reports.
Although Colombia has softened its international image since the reign of drug lord Pablo Escobar and the peak of guerrilla group FARC, the country still struggles with intrinsic gang violence. The brutal gangs that are entrenched into Colombian society, such as the “Urabeños” and the “Rastrojos,” fight for territory, drugs and weapons perpetuating a culture of violence in the country.
Many communities in Colombia, such as the city of Medellin‘s notoriously violent Comuna 13, are the kind of hostile arenas that Cure Violence is known for entering. The strategy is to enter a specific neighborhood or community that is plagued with violence rather than trying to tackle a full-scale city or country.
“When you think about it city-wide or country-wide yeah, it seems totally insane but, when you pinpoint a number of high risk areas where some infrastructure exists, then you do an analysis,” said Decker.
The Cure Violence executive emphasized that launching a project in any community has everything to do with finding the right and credible community partners that have standing in the community and existing relationships with gang members, something that Cure Violence currently lacks in Colombia.
“A key prerequisite is finding the individuals who have a good, solid, or at least some, trust with the guys involved in violence. They help us recruit workers who used to be in the gangs, or at least have brothers or cousins currently involved in gangs, they have a relationship in a way that they are not perceived as an outsider. They are perceived as sharing interests, history, culture and identity with the gangs involved.”
Although the necessary community contacts have not been found yet in Colombia, Decker claimed that potential projects in Colombia have been discussed several times and that they are looking to analyze the situation based on funds provided by Latin American development financier, Inter-American Development Bank.
Decker admitted that situations like Colombia are not easy to address and require a slow, methodical process.
“The starting point isn’t ‘ok we’re gonna stop the cartel violence with the drug trade‘. No, we look at say there’s 25-30 reasons why it is acceptable to kill someone in this community and we start with maybe the first five. A lot of violence is interpersonal stuff, we start to change the thinking around the easier stuff first, going deeper and deeper over time,” said Decker.
Cure Violence is an interpersonal approach to violence that uses infectious disease control as its model to reduce violence in gang-ridden areas of cities. It has been employed in dangerous parts of U.S. cities such as Chicago and yielded proven results in reducing violence.