Uribe attended a meeting at Medellin’s municipal council Saturday to assess the efforts to improve conditions of public order in the city, recommending stiffer penalties for carrying firearms and promoting alternative social programs for gangsters.
The greatest concern for Uribe and the other public officials is that despite the positive results of the municipal government programs and increased law enforcement, deaths in the Aburra Valley continue to climb: they have already passed 1,600 so far this year, which is 500 more than all of 2008.
Authorities attribute this increase to the dispute between two factions of the Office of Envigado gang for control of more than 1,300 drug outlets in the metropolitan area of Medellín, and the 160 gangs operating in the city, reports newspaper El Tiempo.
Paradoxically, the Metropolitan Police reported an 8 per cent decrease in crimes against public safety in the Aburra Valley compared with 2008.
In order to attempt to reduce violent deaths, President Uribe recommended developing legislation to offer stiffer penalties for those illegally carrying firearms, who were previously allowed out on bail, and called on judges and proscutors to consider what he called “the dangerousness of people.
“How sad that there has been such a great effort here [in Medellin] regarding disarmament, and yet this effort has not translated into a decrease in homicides.”
More than five thousand youths in the Aburra Valley are linked to criminal groups in the service of drug trafficking networks, and many of them are armed. According to the Metropolitan Police, they are responsible for more than 90 per cent of the homicides recorded in 2009.
President Uribe also said that in order to combat drug microtrafficking, that Congress would be asked to expedite the passing and approval of a law that would outlaw the production, marketing and consumption of narcotics.
“The world says that we should legalize drugs, but why, if we have already depenalized consumption?” Uribe demanded, adding that penalization of drug use is not to send addicts to jail but rather to punish drug dealers fuelling the crime.
The President also requested judicial support to expedite forfeiture of properties used as “places of vice.”
As for social programs aimed at reducing crime, the Youth Force led by the Mayor of Medellin offers alternative opportunities for more than five thousand young men linked to criminal gangs in the city.
At present this program offers training and alternative activities to violence for 1,150 youths from around 40 gangs that have signed non-aggression pacts and exchanged arms for educational opportunities and community service.
However, Yeison Velasquez, one of the programs beneficiaries in the neighborhood of La Sierra, east of the city center, said that after participating in the program, he is full of hope for changing his life.
However, he fears that “this process will remain on paper, and the State will forget that history repeats itself, and we will be left and we will [continue] to lose our lives attempting to bring peace.”
As on previous occasions, the President urged the capture of priority gangster ‘Mi Sangre’, who was demobilized from the Centauros group, and ‘Danilo’, from the 9th Front of the FARC, who is responsible for continued extortions in Uraba and eastern Antioquia.
The President drew attention to drug gangs operating in the northeastern Antioquia. The report that we have is that in the Bajo Cauca murders are declining, because one of the gangs has started to dominate the others. If this hypothesis is true, [then the situation] is very serious.”
He also asked that the Security Forces cease extorting owners of gold mines in Antioquia, which has increased prices in international markets.
“If you raise gold prices then the beneficiaries will be the criminals. We can not let that happen in Colombia,” Uribe concluded.