The governor of the northwestern Cordoba department offers the defense minister her job for one month amid growing concern about the security of her population.
In an interview with El Espectador, Governor Marta Saenz Correa offered to trade jobs with Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera so that he would understand her department’s “desperate” situation and do more to counter violence in the region.
“It hurts me to see how everything seems very easy to the defense minister while sheltered at his desk in Bogota. It is a problem of centralism, looking at the region from the comfort of his office. He is not living every day what is happening here and because of this he cannot dismiss our claims.”
According to Correa, 313 people have already been murdered in her department in 2011 and the situation is continuing to deteriorate. She urged that she “need solutions. There is extortions, the farmers do not want to return to their lands, street thefts are increasing. I know that the government has made an effort, but I ask, ‘is it enough?'”
She does not, however, place blame on the failure of the military attempts to fight the criminal gangs and regrets having to use statistics as her means of raising awareness to her department’s situation.
“The Armed Forces have done their job. However, I see no other way to measure the phenomenon that hits Cordoba except with the figures of homicides and when the innocent are dying.”
In response to the government’s claim that 323 people were killed in 2010 and not 575 people as she maintains, the governor said “they do not want [the people] to know what is happening. My obligation is not to hide the truth from the people.”
Correa admitted that she is having trouble creating jobs, which puts youth at risk. She said that criminal gangs such as “Los Paisas,” “Los Rastrojos,” “Los Urabeños,” and “Las Aguilas Negras,” are offering their own minimum wage to the youth of Cordoba.
“The BACRIM (criminal gangs) are what create jobs in Cordoba. I recognize that as governor I am not fulfilling that task… It is not just an issue of security, but also a social one. One way to combat insecurity are employment programs so that young people have options and are not continuing to be tempted by criminal gangs”
“It is not time to blame, we are simply asking that our department is a priority on the government agenda,” Correa concluded.