The government Wednesday launched a national campaign in southwest Colombia called “I don’t pay, I report” in opposition to Colombia’s widespread extortion problem.
The Ministry of Defense is encouraging people to report extortion threats via their new “extortion hotline,” claiming that nine out of ten extortion cases reported to the police are successfully resolved.
Gang members extorting civilians, particularly business owners and farmers with violent threats is very common in Colombia and in many cases, are followed through if unpaid, such as in the Santa Rosa de Osos massacre or explosion in a Santa Marta supermarket. Extortion is carried out by several armed groups such as rebel guerrillas (FARC and ELN), neo-paramilitary groups and other criminal gangs as a means of income.
“Complaints of extortion are everywhere. People are tired of the extortion. There is no differentiation between owners of large stores and small shop owners. This crime has no boundaries and that is why the national government is working to fight it head on,” said Colonel Jose Angel Pirela, who launched the initiative in the southwestern department of Huila, newspaper El Espectador reported.
The government has set up this free anti-extortion hotline for people to get legal advice and psychological support related to extortion threats.