Last year 48 bodies in total were retrieved from the river, 17 of them in the city of Medellin itself. According to authorities, all showed signs of having died by shooting or stab wounds, while many also showed signs of torture or had been dismembered.
On January 29 this year, for example, a body was pulled from the river by Technical Investigation Team (CTI) staff near the city’s northern bus terminal. Then, just two blocks away, another was found.
Fabio Osorio of the CTI stated that “Generally the criminals throw corpses into the river with the intention of disappearing them and the evidence. Criminal organizations are beginning to use the river as a means of transport away from the crime scene, making it very difficult to find those culpable and bring them to justice.”
Medellin was known for large parts of the 1980s and 1990s as the most dangerous city in the world. During the last decade it experienced significant urban regeneration and a drop in murder rates, variously attributed to the efforts of the security forces and to power shifts in the local underworld.
However, in the past two years, the city has fallen back into old patterns of violence as gangs sought to gain territory previously under the control of former paramilitary leader “Don Berna” who was extradited to the U.S. in 2008.
While only comprising a small fraction of the overall homicides in the city, the number of bodies being dumped in the river is still troublingly high. Authorities have noted the importance of focusing their efforts on this issue. However, as General Secretary Felipe Palau admitted, the idea of having a permanent posting along the river to monitor activities is strategically difficult.
Statistics from the first 25 days of this year put the city’s homicide rate 30% lower than the same period in 2010.