Extortion in Colombia has gone up nearly 500% since 2008, according to a report released Wednesday. The vast majority of suspected extortionists are common criminals.
According to a report by the Security and Democracy Center, only 20% of extortion cases in the country end up on record as the vast majority of victims pay up without reporting the cases to the authorities.
This low ratio drastically increases the error margin of the study.
The study group of the Sergio Arboleda university was founded by conservative opposition Senator Alfredo Rangel (Democratic Center) and is now led by Juan Lozano, who was minister under former President Alvaro Uribe.
While the report focused on the increase since 2010 when Uribe left office, extortion figures had been going up since 2008 when the now-opposition senator was still president.
Between 2008 and 2014, the number of reported cases increased almost 500%, according to figures by the Colombian Defense Ministry used in the report.
The biggest spike in extortion was registered between 2012 and 2013 when reported extortion cases more than doubled.
Extortion cases since 2005
Three out of four of those who reported extortion claimed that common criminals were responsible. In a quarter of the cases, the alleged perpetrators were guerrilla or (neo-)paramilitary forces, the report said.
Of the 18,827 cases recorded since 2003, rebel group FARC was suspected in 13% of extortion cases. In 2014, following a decade of losing territory to Colombia’s military and two years of peace talks, extortion by the FARC comprised less than 10% of extortion cases.
The smaller rebel group ELN allegedly carried out 1.5% of extortion attempts between 2003 and 2014.
The now-defunct paramilitary group AUC and its successor groups were suspected in 7% of the cases.
Most extortion took place in the country’s largest urban areas where urban gangs and militias exercise control mainly over cities’ poorer areas.
Logros de la Política Integral de Seguridad y Defensa para la Prosperidad (Defense Ministry)