Exactly a year after reports paramilitary group AGC had embarked on a Pablo Escobar-like cop killing spree, Colombia’s Ombudsman called on authorities to act.
In the first three months of this year, 75 members of the security forces were murdered nationwide, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.
Earlier this week, on one day alone, at least three policemen were assassinated in actions attributed to both the AGC and the ELN, without government response.
Hello Bogota, welcome to the rest of Colombia
The ELN was accused of killing a policeman in Bogota earlier this year, but has now allegedly been joined by their arch enemies.
Ombudsman Carlos Negret on Thursday announced that the capital and nine provinces, mainly in what is considered AGC territory, were on alert over a so-called “Plan Pistola,” a clandestine strategy to target policemen in an attempt to further weaken Colombia’s already weak state institutions.
The Ombudsman’s Office has assessed a risk scenario of possible attacks by presumed members of the ELN and the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, AGC, in a “Plan Pistola” against members of the security forces, mainly against the National Police.
The ELN has attacked police since its foundation in 1964, but the paramilitary Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a.k.a. “Los Urabeños,” have refrained from confronting authorities, until the death of one of its leaders in 2011.
Since then, also the AGC has reportedly targeted policemen in hit-and-run assassinations, particularly after being declared an Class A Organized Group in November 2015 that allowed aerial bombings of the group’s troops and camps.
However, while guerrilla and paramilitary terror increased, Colombia’s authorities have seemingly failed to respond with deadly consequences for Colombia’s police force.
Back to the Escobar days
In April 2016, the AGC reportedly began offering a $300 reward for every killed cop in an act of audacity unseen since Pablo Escobar declared war on the police in the early 1990s.
While the ELN continued their attacks on security forces in northeast Colombia, the AGC expanded their “Plan Pistola” along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and in Medellin.
The killings escalated after the government and the FARC had agreed to peace without including the paramilitaries who on repeated occasions asked to be included in the process.
The killing spree that followed forced authorities in the northwestern province of Antioquia to declare an orange alert, while opening its own negotiations with the AGC.
Newspaper El Espectador quoted the ombudsman as saying that “it appears there is also a plan pistola in Bogota. They are paying $600 exactly as in the days we don’t want to return to, the Pablo Escobar era.”
The police and the intelligence agencies must go after members of the ELN and the Gaitanistas because we have not been able to define from where the plan pistola comes. We know it targets the police, but tomorrow it could be us.
Ombudsman Carlos Negret
Human rights organizations and the United Nations have called on Bogota to curb the killing of community leaders, 33 of whom have been assassinated since a peace deal with the Marxist FARC guerrilla group came into effect.
The ombudsman on Thursday implied the national government is not even able to adequately protect its own officials.
Bogota’s police department has already begun its own precautions, according to television network RCN, which had obtained an internal memo warning policemen they were the target of both the ELN and AGC.
The memo advised policemen to take off their police uniform when leaving protected police stations or barracks off duty.