Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday announced to send police reinforcements to the Valle del Cauca department where — contrary to the national trend — violence indicators have gone up due to tensions between drug trafficking organizations.
The president made the announcement in Buga, a city some 30 miles north of the department capital Cali.
According to Santos, homicides in parts of Valle nearly doubled in the first few weeks of the year compared to the same period last year.
The “reverse this trend,” the president said that national authorities would be sending an extra 430 police officers to the department.
“These 430 officials should increasingly win the hearts of the communities because good behavior is translated to more tranquility,” Santos said.
Valle del Cauca is the home of drug trafficking organization “Los Rastrojos” that has entered a territorial dispute with the rival “Los Urabeños” neo-paramilitary group from the northwest of the country.
In 2012, several events diminished the fighting power of Los Rastrojos. The gang’s main leaders, Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, were either captured or surrendered to US authorities. These apprehensions left the group fractured and without a clear leader.
Meanwhile, “Los Urabeños” — with a clear, military hierarchy inherited from the paramilitary group the AUC — purportedly have taken advantage of the Rastrojos lack of leadership. During 2012, reports indicated that the neo-paramilitaries had started to pressure the Cali drug-traffickers in places like the port city of Buenaventura, which had previously been considered Rastrojos territory.
A third actor in the region is the much smaller local drug trafficking group “Los Machos,” that — like the Rastrojos — was formed from the Norte del Valle Cartel when it disintegrated in the first decade of this century.