Although police have captured or killed various gang leaders in recent months, the violence and fight for power rages on. Mid-level henchmen have stepped up seamlessly to fill the absences of their former bosses.
“I cannot say that the gangs have left, that the issue is over, no. They mutate, they change leaders,” said Naval Captain Gabriel Perez.
“What they want is not to have the drug routes…because each handles its own route,” Perez explained, “but to have control over the structures on the island itself.
Despite the successful elimination of top ranking gang leaders, including nine operations last year alone that resulted in the capture of 100 gang members, Los Paisas, Rastrojos and the Urabeños continue to wage war over the prime real estate.
The aftermath of last year’s seizures have left police scrambling as they try to ascertain which gangs are currently at the forefront of the island’s criminal activity and who exactly is commandeering each of them.
Despite the uncertainty, officials are optimistic that the string of arrests hints at a brighter and more peaceful future for San Andres.
The senior officer of the Navy, Colonel Fabio Lopez insisted that “the situation is under control and not to worry.”
Nevertheless, the government’s optimism is a cautious one.
“Gone are the heads of these structures, but the problem persists on another scale that is the intermediaries. These organizations are somehow alive,” said departmental secretary Lucia Emiliana Bernard.