The mayor of Bajo Cauca, a region in northern Colombia, says that the murder rate in Caucasia, a town in the region, is soaring while murder rates in neighboring municipalities are falling, due to violence by competing drug gangs, reports El Mundo.
A recent spate of violence in Caucasia killed more people in the first eleven days of April than in that entire month in 2009, according to Mayor Jorge Ivan Valencia, due to gangs battling for control of the narcotics industry.
Meanwhile the murder rate has gone down in neighboring municipalities; “In Bagre, Zaragoza, Taraza, Nechi and Caceres homicides have declined, but not in Caucasia,” according to Valencia.
The mayor says that criminals have carried out a wave of bombings in commercial and residential areas, causing death, displacement, unemployment and increasing the drop-out rate of students, who are being recruited by local narco-traffickers.
Valencia blames this wave of violence on cocaine gangs. “There are several criminal gangs, such as the ‘Rastrojos,’ the ‘Paisas’ and the ‘Urabeños,’ and some intelligence sources also add the ‘Autodefensas Gaitanistas’ and the ‘Aguilas Negras,’ who are fighting to gain control of the drug trafficking routes” said Valencia.
The government secretary of Antioquia has disputed the mayor’s figures, arguing that in the first 11 days of April 2009, 34 people died, four more deaths than the same period this year. Nonetheless, this reduction of 12% would still be far less than the reduction seen in the nearby municipalities of Nechi, Caceres and Taraza, where homicide has fallen by 50%, 81% and 62% respectively, according to national police figures.
The effects of the cocaine industry and related violence have cast a long shadow over Bajo Cauca despite the demobilization of paramilitary group Bloque Mineros in 2008. The region’s problem with drugs in due in part to the area’s position as a corridor for cocaine to exit the country through the Gulfs of Uraba and Morrosquillo, according to the mayor.