Following a Security Council meeting held Tuesday about the security situation in Medellin, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government will formulate new measures to address the gang warfare that is plaguing the Antioquian capital.
“Organized crime is not going to continue to wreaking havoc in Medellin,” Santos said. He added that the defense minister, the police director and the prosecutor general will present a report next week detailing how Colombia’s armed forces operations will be adjusted to better combat crime.
At the Security Council meeting Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar made a number of recommendations, including more staff for the Medellin Prosecutor General’s Office, increased protection for members of the judiciary, improved technological resources, improved re-socialization programs for former criminals, the strengthening of witness protection programs and the creation of a legal support system for victims of urban violence.
During the meeting Salazar, Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera and high ranking members of the armed forces also discussed the need to strengthen the judicial system to better deal with crime.
“We realized that there is a need to go much further, just as with operational issues … the authorities have done a lot, but we are going to establish processes to be able to quickly study the types of normative processes needed to present to Congress so that they approve changes to the law, so that the impunity that is greatly damaging this country is not permitted,” Santos said.
The Colombian president alluded to the cases of prominent criminals such as “El Cebollero” and Leonardo Muñoz, alias “Douglas,” the former who was granted parole after three months into his 50 month sentence and the latter who, Santos said, despite being one of the bosses of Medellin crime gang the Office of Envigado, was permitted to stay in hospital for “an illness that did not merit that benefit.”
“We need to be more effective, and the whole state is going to control and improve this situation,” Santos said.
Both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the U.S have said they will provide assistance to Colombian authorities to address escalating urban violence. The ICRC will provide humanitarian aid to the Medellin inhabitants affected by the violence, as well as attempting to hold a dialogue with gang members embroiled in the bloody turf war that is believed to be the main cause of the violence.
The U.S. government will provide aid in the form of support for Colombia’s national police with “equipment, resources and the strengthening of security.”
Medellin has born the brunt of gang warfare so far this year. In the first half of 2010 1,250 homicides were committed and 2,300 people were forced to leave their homes because of violence or threats, according to data provided by the city’s ombudsman.
El Tiempo attributes the violence plaguing Medellin to a battle for “sovereignty” of the socio-economically disadvantaged area of Comuna 13 – in which more than 140 gangs operate – and for control of the criminal world of drugs, prostitution, and gambling
According to Ombudsman Jairo Herran, Medellin has some 400 gangs, of which 200 are active, and there are a total of 5,000 members.
These gangs “are formed by paramilitaries that never demobilized, by former paramilitaries that entered government reintegration programs and recruited young men,” the ombudsmen said.