Medellin‘s homicide rate has returned to the same level as before a recently brokered ceasefire between its two major criminal gangs, the city’s Ombudsman’s Office confirmed on Monday.
Homicide rates did drop in the first week of February – just after the ceasefire came into effect – with 38 homicides reported between February 1 and 7, an Ombudsman spokesperson told Colombia Reports.
However, the following week, the homicide rate returned to January’s average of 57 murders a week, with 58 homicides registered from February 8 to 14.
A group of negotiators claimed at the beginning of February that they had brokered a truce between the rival criminal organizations run by “Sebastian” and “Valenciano,” which are held responsible for the vast majority of killings in Colombia’s second largest city.
“We can’t say how long this agreement will last, nor is there a clear path towards what our next steps should be,” negotiator Jorge Gaviria told Colombia Reports on February 9. “But from what we’ve heard up until now, the reactions have been fairly positive, and hopefully that will allow us to continue moving forward.”
Medellin journalist Tatiana Cardenas, who specializes in human rights and armed conflict for El Mundo, told Colombia Reports she believes the ceasefire had little effect.
“The ceasefire is no more than a convenience for those who commit crimes in the city, although it is true that these people agreed to stop the shooting and keep calm, they continue to carry out contractual killings… just in a more controlled way,” Cardenas said.
“The conflict is continuing just the same, but now its more surreptitious and low profile,” Cardenas added.
“They [criminal gangs] continue to kill, but only their targets… before they were killing like crazy and the daily shootings increased the sense of insecurity. Now the killings aren’t as blatant but they’re still happening,” the journalist explained.
Cardenas also said that those within the gangs who originally kept to the ceasefire have begun to seek revenge on those who continued to kill, which could potentially explain the increase in murders over the last week.
Homicides in Medellin have soared throughout 2008 and 2009 due to territorial conflicts between local militias and nationally-operating drug gangs. Both local and national authorities increased the number of police in the city and sent army personnel to the city’s worst barrios, but without visible effect.