“We will not rest until the people feel at ease in their homes, in their streets and in their parks,” President Juan Manuel Santos told the people of Colombia Tuesday during a ceremony commemorating the Battle of Boyaca.
The Colombian head of state announced plans to increase army troops by 20,000 and the military police by 5,000.
Santos told a crowd at the Bridge of Boyaca – the site of a battle in which Colombia secured its definitive victory over Spain in 1819 — that the country now had its lowest homicide rate in 20 years, and that kidnapping rates had dropped 28% in the first half of this year.
“We are winning the battle for security and we will not falter, nor let our guard down one millimeter in the fight against violence,” said President Santos.
He also highlighted an army mission to weaken leftist insurgents labeled ‘Plan War Sword of Honor,’ which was launched at the beginning of the year. “Today the guerrillas remain a threat that we face; but they are increasingly cornered by the overwhelming actions of our troops,” he said, adding that 14 leading FARC members had been killed in just the first seven months of the operation.
As well as increasing troop numbers, the president said plans were in place to significantly enhance the army’s capabilities with better equipment and technology. “We are talking, for the army, about Black Hawk helicopters, night fighting and anti-mine equipment, and for the Navy, more patrol boats, speedboats for the coastguard, and the modernization of frigates and submarines,” said Santos.
Finishing his speech, the president called on guerrilla groups to demobilize and leave their life of violence. “[We] invite members of illegal armed groups to stop their senseless fight and benefit from the reintegration program. Their families and society are waiting,” claimed Santos.