Colombia’s San Andres hit by homicides, disappearances

San Andres island (Photo: Jenifer Rivera)

Colombia’s chief of police travelled to San Andres on Monday in response to a recent wave of violence on the small caribbean island, according to official sources.

General Rodolfo Palomino arrived in San Andres with a group of 50 police officers on Monday in response to a recent uptick in violent crimes, homicides, and disappearances, according to reports by the national police.

Palomino will be meeting with the local prosecutor’s office on Monday in order to establish measures that can restore security to the island.

San Andres, recently voted ‘Leading Beach Destination in South America’ at the 2014 World Travel Awards, has seen eleven murders this year to date, five of them apparently linked to territorial disputes between criminal gangs.

MORE: Colombia’s San Andres island awarded South America’s leading beach destination

Local authorities are attributing the escalation in violence to drug trafficking and over-population.

Last Thursday an Argentine tourist, Luciano Narcisi, 29, was shot in an attempted robbery while walking with his pregnant wife. He was taken to Bogota and survived. On Wednesday, an employee of a local shop, 23, was shot dead, and Saturday morning Marco Antonio Quintana Arrieta, 33, was killed after receiving two shots when driving home in the area of ​​San Luis. 

On June 7, a tourist from Bogota disappeared in the early hours when he left his hotel to buy cigarettes and never returned. The authorities have failed to establish what happened to the young man. The homicides remain unresolved, and no arrests have been made.

Many attribute what is happening in San Andrés to the social breakdown caused by two actors: drug trafficking and overpopulation. This plight of insecurity has generated an angry reaction from the Chamber of Commerce of San Andres and Providencia, who sent a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos to raise questions about the actions of the Armed Forces and Police on the islands.

It is unacceptable that in a region with such a small terrestrial geographic extension (16 square miles) that crimes can be indiscriminately perpetrated due to the inefficient performance of the competent authorities. Impunity linked to each of the cases not only generates the dismay and helplessness of the citizens, but also distrust, lack of credibility and co-operation with the bodies to ensure safety, ” the letter stated.

General Rodolfo Palomino claims that the crime is attributable to gangs of “common criminals,” in addition to clashes between micro-trafficking groups. He therefore announced an increase in manpower to ensure the safety of the inhabitants of the island and tourists.

General Palomino has offered rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the identification of the perpetrators of these recent acts of murder, and $500 for providing information leading to the seizure of illegal firearms.

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