Mass killings and robberies: violence soars in Colombia in the first weeks of the Petro government

Since the inauguration on August 7 of President Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president in Colombia’s history, the country has been experiencing a wave of violence, with massacres, mass robberies and an insecurity that affects both the cities and the countryside.

According to analysts, the difference between this moment of great violence and others that occurred in Colombian history is that at the present time the massacres are not are occurring only in rural areas, as is characteristic of the armed conflict that has been ravaging the country since the 1990s 1960, but also in urban centers.

Between last Saturday and Monday (12), two massacres in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla and in the municipality of Landázuri , in the department of Santander (northeast), left 14 dead. In the latter city, a teacher, his wife and their two children were murdered in their own home by criminals, four of whom were lynched by the victims’ neighbors.

In all, there have been massacres in just over a month in Colombia, in addition to multiple robberies.

In Bogotá, authorities found over the weekend the bodies of three women, two in the south of the city and one in the north, to which were added the mass robberies in the tourist area of ​​Park Way and the arson at two police stations.

Dismembered bodies in plastic bags were also found in the capital in recent months 23, violence attributed to disputes over the drug trafficking control. The city hall of Bogotá, which last week announced the creation of a “group against multicrime” to combat insecurity in the city, reported that one of the gangs involved in these crimes is the Tren de Aragua, from Venezuela.

In early September, eight police officers were killed in an ambush that took place in a rural area of ​​the department of Huila, in the southwest of the country.

For Fernando Rojas Parra, who was a professor of public policy at the Universidad Javeriana and the Universidad de Rosário, the first thing the Petro government should do to deal with the problem of rampant violence is to “define what the urban security policy is”.

The researcher cited the case of the Tren de Aragua, noting that this group did not arrive recently in Bogotá; on the contrary, it spent years “competing with other organizations that already exist in Colombia”. In other words, the State was not surprised: it lacked competence to fight the gang.

“Bogotá is a place where there is money, where there is commerce, where an organization can really compete for economic control and for a gigantic income that goes beyond drug trafficking, land, extortion. Bogotá is a very important market for the country. So here intelligence failed, justice failed and coordination between the national government and the local government failed”, lamented Rojas.

Criticized strategies

Although Petro has not defined a clear public security guideline, the movements he has signaled in policies for this area and in defense have generated criticism. They include the removal of at least 70 generals and colonels from the Army and National Police, limits on bombings against guerrilla groups, and a reform of the Mobile Police Shock Squad ( Esmad), responsible for containing protests.

Claiming that the war on drugs did not work out, Petro’s coalition, the Historic Pact, is considering the legalization of narcotics in the country supposedly to circumvent the violence of drug trafficking, and the government announced the suspension of aerial spraying on illicit crops and the encouragement of voluntary replacement of these crops.

“Today we swim in drugs, but what will come with that decision it will be a tsunami of drugs that will drown Colombia in more violence. We are heading in the wrong direction”, wrote on Twitter the opponent Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, one of the opponents defeated by the leftist in this year’s presidential election.

The Petro administration also wants to peace agreements with guerrilla groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN). “We are repeatedly asking violent actors to accept our Total Peace proposal. As Colombians, we need to stop killing each other, we need life to prevail, we need to live in peace after decades and decades of violence,” Petro said last week, in a letter sent to an activist who expressed concern about the violence faced. through the port city of Buenaventura.

Alejo Vargas, an expert on security and violence, told the BBC that the idea of ​​“human security” is positive, but the Colombian government cannot fail to provide a quick and incisive response to the increase in crime.

“The first part of the government must be focused on comprehensive security that includes public security in the regions [conflagradas], because if there is no forceful response from the State and society rejecting violence against the police, we will continue with the common logic of these groups of testing the government to see how it reacts”, he warned.

After the People’s Revolutionary Movement (MRP) group, accused of an attack on a ing in Bogotá that killed three people and left nine others injured in 2017, sending a message to Petro also proposing a peace agreement, security expert Jorge Mantilla questioned on Twitter the government openness to negotiate with armed groups.

“Do they [MRP] have territorial control? Do they have the capacity to carry out military operations? Do they have a recognized command structure? The government’s own contradictory messages and the confusion of criteria will end up dismantling Total Peace,” he wrote. (With information from Efe Agency)

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