Medellin’s mayor on Wednesday promised to curb state neglect as part of a strategy to reduce crime and violence in the city’s impoverished neighborhoods.
Mayor Federico Gutierrez took to Twitter to promise the inclusion of social investment in the municipal strategy to combat gangs in the west of the city.
Locals from the 13th District had demanded government efforts to increase job and education opportunities after weeks of fighting between gangs loyal to local crime syndicate La Oficina de Envigado and gangs loyal to paramilitary group AGC.
Residents of the “Comuna 13” took to the streets last week to reject Government Secretary Santiago Gomez’ suggestion to carry out a siege similar to “Operation Orion,” a 2002 military operation in which dozens were disappeared.
The locals want to the city to end state neglect in the impoverished parts of town rather than police or military interventions.
We have demanded that they invest more in us and that there are opportunities for people, not just military interventions. My experience is that if people have jobs they stop committing crimes.
Comuna 13 resident Leon Juan Cossio
The residents’ message reached Gutierrez who promised “all social investment for our communities.”
“I have told all the secretaries and officials that today in the 13th District, in Robledo, in Altavista and in the city in general, the vests of the Mayor’s Office of Medellín must be seen more than the uniforms of the National Police or the Colombian Army,” Gutierrez told the city council earlier this week.
The council agreed to add $102 million to the municipal budget for the improvement of public transport, housing, job creation and healthcare in the city of almost 2.5 million people.
The social investments are a change in strategy of Gutierrez, who has been accused of reducing development budgets to finance a hard-line approach to crime reduction.
The strategy seemed to be failing, however, as indicators of both unemployment and violent crime went up.