Homicides in Medellin are up more than 30%, but that doesn’t seem to hurt the approval rating of the city’s mayor.
So far this year, more than 332 people were murdered, according to the city’s Security and Coexistence Information System (SISC).
Twice within a year, the prosecution was forced to suspend all arrest warrants, claiming that prisons were overcrowded.
But despite the evident security crisis, the popularity of Mayor Federico Gutierrez has soared to 89%, according to Gallup Colombia.
The pollster, whose former CEO is now Medellin’s public utilities chief, said earlier this week that Gutierrez was the most popular mayor in the country.
Gutierrez has proven to be a master in manipulating public opinion; he suspended the annual presentation of security statistics and has falsely presented arrested gangsters as major crime lords.
The war over the west
The increase in violence is particularly affecting the west of the city where escalating turf wars between gangs have been terrorizing locals for years.
Homicides in the 13th District, one of the city’s most neglected areas, went up as much as 86%, according to newspaper El Tiempo.
The violence appears to be due to a conflict between paramilitary group AGC and the Oficina de Envigado, the local crime syndicate that was once formed as the enforcer army of the now-defunct Medellin Cartel.
While most of the city’s approximately 240 street gangs are loyal to La Oficina, some have sworn loyalty to the AGC, which controls most drug trafficking routes from Medellin to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Local security analysts have claimed that Mexican drug cartels have created further division and are flooding the city’s gangs with arms.
“Medellin has two serious problems: an inefficient city hall that has learned to conceal this with media offensives (that media play along with) and corrupt sectors within the Medellin Police Department,” said Juan Diego Restrepo, a senior conflict reporter, on Twitter.
Medellin homicide rate
Source: Medical Examiner’s Office
How corruption is crippling Medellin’s city hall
Gutierrez’ hand-picked security secretary was sentenced to prison earlier this year for his ties to La Oficina. The regional public security chief of the National Police and multiple cops have been arrested for providing protection to gangs.
Locals from the 13th District, the city’s most troubled area, told newspaper El Tiempo that police are providing gangs with bulletproof vests and helmets, effectively fueling rather than curbing the violence.
The notoriously corrupt Metropolitan Police Department has been accused of ties to La Oficina for years, leaving many of the city’s residents exposed to extortion and the violent rule of the local crime syndicate rather than the rule of law.