A Security Council meeting, called to address the gang warfare ravaging some of Medellin‘s poorest suburbs, announced new measures that it hopes will halt the violence plaguing the central Colombian city.
Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar, police commander General Oscar Naranjo and Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera headed the meeting, which was attended by 70 delegates from various security bodies and state agencies.
Following the meeting, Naranjo announced that an “Integrated Intervention Center” will be created in the Comuna 13 area, whose San Javier suburb has seen some of the worst of the recent violence. The function of the center will be to study the violence and come up with “preventative, dissuasive” plans to control the situation.
Naranjo also announced that 800 extra police will be sent to reinforce the Comuna 13, while a group of investigators devise a plan to combat the dozen or so criminal organizations that dominate the area.
Other measures to be implemented include increased surveillance by district, the installation of video cameras in problem areas and security check points at the entries to the Comuna 13.
“We are going to check records and identify the victimizers,” said Naranjo.
The security council meeting was convened because Salazar asked the national government for assistance to deal with the gang warfare.
El Tiempo explains how the violence plaguing Medellin is part of a bitter battle for “sovereignty” of the Comuna 13 – in which more than 140 gangs operate – and for control of the criminal world of drugs, prostitution and gambling.
According to authorities, the proliferation of sophisticated arms available on the streets signals that various groups are backed by rival factions of the Office of Envigado’s drug lords Erick Vargas, alias “Sebastian” and Maximiliano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” as well as criminal organizations such as “los Urabaeños” and “los Rastrojos.”
The situation boiled over last week, with gunfire paralyzing the area Tuesday, which led to the suspension of metro services along the K-line of Medellin’s metro, a cable car which connects San Javier with La Aurora. Services were suspended because the Juan XIII station and three of the cars were damaged by bullets.
According to the Medellin Mayor’s office 1,322 people have been reported murdered in the city so far to date this year, which marks a 12 per cent increase in the homicide rate, compared to the same period in 2009. The Comuna 13 has been worst affected, registering 12.4 per cent of the total deaths during that period, despite prior reinforcements of 800 police and military officers.
The Comuna 13 has been the most surveilled urban area in Colombia since former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002.