The United States will help Colombia to combat soaring homicide rates in the country’s biggest cities, a U.S. embassy official told Spanish press agency Efe.
According to Narcotics Affairs Director Dann Foott, the United States government is concerned about violence in cities like Medellin and will support Colombia’s national police with “equipment, resources and the strengthening of security.”
The destruction of big criminal organizations like the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s, and the AUC paramilitary coalition in the early years of this century, caused the drug trafficking business to become fragmented. The rise of smaller groups trying to control the drug trade responsible for the violence, the U.S. official said.
“My department is working a lot with [national police chief] General [Oscar] Naranjo to try to increase the capacity of the police in the fight against these criminal gangs,” said Foott.
Gang warfare has been most violent in Medellin, where in the first half of 2010 1,250 homicides were committed and 2,300 people were forced to leave their homes because of violence or threats, according to data provided by the city’s ombudsman.
According to Ombudsman Jairo Herran, Medellin has some 400 gangs, of which 200 are active, and there are a total of 5,000 members.
These gangs “are formed by paramilitaries that never demobilized, by former paramilitaries that entered government reintegration programs and recruited young men,” the ombudsmen said.