President Juan Manuel Santos admitted Monday that Colombians’ perception of security has gone down, but insisted that the security forces are increasingly effective in fighting rebel and neo-paramilitary groups.
According to the Santos, “the levels of security go unnoticed because nothing happens. This means that there are several prevention operations and that a lot, like terrorist attacks, is prevented.”
A poll released by weekly Semana and media conglomerate RCN showed Sunday that 36% of Colombians approved of Santos’ security policies against 59% a year ago.
The president, accompanied by Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, presented their government’s mid-term results regarding security at the Rionegro airbase and the city of Itagui, both just outside of Colombia’s second largest city Medellin.
The president admitted that the armed forces for a while lacked the financial and logistical resources to enter specific zones controlled by illegal armed groups but claimed that these problems were dealt with and the army and police were now inside the “dens” of guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN.
“We now have the resources to enter these dens and there is where there has been a change in strategy of the Army and the entire security forces,” Santos said.
The defense minister added that during the first two years of Santos’ presidency, two of the FARC’s top commanders and another two members of the guerrilla organization’s political leadership had been killed. Additionally, 13 guerrilla front commanders were killed and four were arrested this year alone, Pinzon said.
According to the minister, half of the FARC’s attacks took place in 17 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities affecting only 1.2% of Colombia’s population.
Pinzon also claimed success in fighting “terrorist” drug trafficking and neo-paramilitary groups.
“In 934 of the country’s municipalities there is no presence of criminal groups,” the minister said, adding that more than 7,000 members of groups that emerged from the officially demobilized paramilitary organization AUC had been “neutralized.”
To curb attacks from groups like the FARC and ELN, improve results in the fight against neo-paramilitary and drug gangs, and improve urban security, Pinzon said that over the past two years, more than 5,000 extra policemen were added to the security forces.
The minister said that the government allocated more than $550 million for Colombia’s National Police in the budget for 2013.