Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos Friday promised a more aggressive pursuit of neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” and offers a reward of more than $1 million for information leading to the capture of the group’s leader, “Otoniel.”
The Urabeños, Colombia’s largest neo-paramilitary group, knew to shut down large parts of the northern part of the country from Wednesday to Friday through an imposed “armed strike.”
Pamphlets that were distributed by members of the group on Wednesday afternoon ordering small business owners and bus companies to cease all activities resulted in an almost entire shutdown of an area the size of Switzerland that included the east of Medellin and the Caribbean tourism hot spot Santa Marta.
Santos, who presided a special security council in Santa Marta on Friday, said judicial authorities would be strengthened with an extra 16 prosecutors in charge of the prosecution of alleged members of neo-paramilitary and other drug trafficking groups active in the departments along the Caribbean coasts.
The president also vowed to present Congress legislation “with more teeth” to allow authorities to fight these groups — most of them formed from the demobilized paramilitary organization AUC.
In February 2011, then-defense minister Rodrigo Rivera also vowed to step up the fight against the Urabeños and introduced “Plan Troy,” a security plan that included an increase in security forces primarily in the violence-ridden Cordoba department. Despite this security offensive, The Urabeños strengthened their control over drug trafficking routes to the Caribbean coast.