Colombia’s conservative opposition has insisted that security in the country has worsened. The allegations have been cast off as “lies” by President Juan Manuel Santos, but the Deputy Minister of Defense was forced admitted they are true.
The former president, a hard-liner when it comes to dealing with leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN, has gained international praise for the dropping homicide and kidnapping statistics that were presented during his two terms in office between 2002 and 2010.
Santos, Uribe’s successor, has continued to claim dropping crime rates while negotiating peace with the FARC that — two years into the talks — even declared a unilateral ceasefire.
The opposition’s claims
However, the opposition conservatives claim that “between 2010 and 2014 the blowing up of pipelines increased 355%; blowing up of bridges 300%; extortion 262%; the explosions at military installations 120%; harassment of the security forces 69%; illegal checkpoints 64% and scattered terrorist acts 62%.”
These growing figures further delegitimize the talks they say have contributed to the increase in public insecurity.
The opposition’s ‘lies’
Santos labelled the accusation “lies” in an interview with Colombian radio station La FM last Wednesday.
His office has always maintained that his security policies have been in line with Uribe and have shown similar results.
The president has seen his claim supported by conflict analysts, who have claimed that the peace talks have begun to drastically reduce the main violence indicators related to the conflict.
Uribe’s “rigged figures,” claimed Santos, are simply the product of a desire of the CD to “lie” to the people and warp their understanding of the truth.
“There are people that do not want to understand what I want to say,” he told La FM, adding that “when you repeat information, people will believe it.”
However, the Red Cross released a report earlier this year that showed a much less flowery picture that supported the CD’s claims.
In the Senate, Senator Alfredo Rangel addressed Santos’ denial and called him to admit the truth.
“To a radio network, President Santos branded as misleading and lacking reality the figures included by the Democratic Center in a recent paper on peace talks in Cuba,” he said.
Senator Rangel emphasized that “we confirm that these figures are official figures that originate in the Ministry of Defence.”
The senator urged Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon to “ratify or rectify these figures and we invite you, too, President Santos to know your own official figures and not to lie to your country by hiding the reality of a deteriorating security of our country during the development of the peace talks in Havana.”
Both sides are right and both sides use statistics selectively
Deputy Defense Minister Jorge Enrique Bedoya last week confirmed that the figures are correct, but maintained that general violence statistics have reduced since the FARC negotiations began in November 2012.
Other public violence and crime indicators did go down, but were ignored by the opposition, said the deputy minister.
“The only certainty is that the country is more secure,” Bedoya told La FM Radio.
The senior official said that during 2014, no subversive action took place in 92% of the country’s municipalities, and that in 64.4% of them, terrorism decreased. Kidnapping for ransom is at the lowest rate in the last 13 years, according to Bedoya.
He also presented figures about the reduction in homicide in the country.
“We already have the homicide rate for 2015 so far. In civilian killings it is the lowest in the past 13 years,” Bedoya said.
“There is a homicide reduction of 17% between January and February in 2015 compared to the previous year, and a reduction of 12.5% in burglaries,” the deputy defense minister revealed.
The official also highlighted that after an increase in murder of Armed Forces members between 2009 and 2011, the figure fell by 23.3% between 2012 and 2014.
“In whatever way you look at these indicators, it is a lie to say that after two years of negotiations with the FARC Colombia is a less secure place,” said Bedoya.