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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The following is an overview of recent violence in Colombia from November 21st to December 10th:
- November 21: President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia reported that his country's security forces had "apparently" killed Benito Cabrera Cuevas, also known as Fabian Ramirez, a senior FARC commander. Colombian news sources report that Cuevas was killed in an early morning raid in the Meta department. Various personal items, including a computer, have been recovered.
- November 23: In Cauca, an attack by FARC rebels left three police officers dead and another one wounded. Alvaro Grijalba, a representative of the local government, stated that the government of Cauca "repudiates and rejects these acts of violence perpetrated by forces outside the law." Similarly, an ambush by FARC guerrillas near Vista Hermosa in Meta left three soldiers dead and another four wounded as they conducting a routine patrol throughout the area. Two of the soldiers' bodies were left filled with explosives. Local authorities have claimed that they have tightened security and increased security measures. Another ambush in the southern Department of Guaviare claimed the lives of four police officers who were working on eradicating local coca cultivations. Civilian news agency Noticias Nueva Colombia has warned that the FARC has released a statement which predicted an intense end of year in which rebels are readying themselves to strike the Colombian Military with force.
- November 27: Government sources reported that three civilian coca-eradicators were killed along with one soldier during a guerrilla attack near the town of Leiva in Nari?±o. Seven other soldiers, charged with protecting the civilian workers, were injured. In Puerto Asis, Putumayo, FARC forces reportedly opened fire on an occupied police vehicle, killing one policeman and one civilian.
- November 30: Colombian authorities have reported that FARC forces detonated a car bomb in a minivan in front of a police outpost in the village of Vergalarga, Huila. Only the minivan's driver is reported dead. President Santos has condemned the attack as an act of "cowardliness and despair."
- December 5: The Colombian Interior and Justice Ministry has reported that severe rains and a mudslide have left 197 people dead, 248 injured, 143 missing and approximately two million homeless. After meeting with local authorities, Colombian Ministers declared the affected areas disaster areas in hopes to gain access to more aid and rescue resources. In the United Nations, President Santos has called for international solidarity with the victims and has asked for help of the international community. Santos also thanked the nations and organizations that have already sent humanitarian and rescue assistance to the affected region.
- Through a speech at Fundación Corazon Verde, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reported that so far this year, 240 policemen have been killed. He assured his audience that police forces are improving their training and readiness.
This post was written by CIP intern Johannes Schmidt
Friday, November 19, 2010
The following is an overview of the most recent violence in Colombia:
• Colombian authorities have reported that shortly after 2:00 am on November 10th, guerrilla forces began an offensive against the town of El Tambo in Cauca, leaving a police officer injured and over 80 buildings damaged. Sources have indicated that the rebel offensive included an attempted robbery of the Agrarian Bank: the official police report negates this, however. The mayor of El Tambo, Hugo Ferney Muñoz, has stated that the reason behind the attack of the town in unclear- it is well known, however, that the area is home to FARC, ELN and Los Rastrojos .
• On Sunday, November 14th, Colombian military forces and FARC rebels engaged in a bloody firefight in the northeastern department of Tamacay along the Venezuelan border. According to a report released by the Colombian military’s XVIII Brigade, the confrontation left four soldiers and eight members of FARC’s 10th Front dead. The same report also outlines two separate incidents: the killing of an unidentified guerrilla and the capture of “Ivan El Quemado” during a crackdown in Puerton Rodón.
• The biggest blow to the FARC this last week occurred on November 17th when the Colombian Air Force attacked a FARC jungle encampment along the Ecuadorian border killing 14 rebels. In a press release, President Santos cited the recent victories against the FARC, which included the killing of Jorge Brinceño and stated that “in matters of security, we will keep on going forward- we will not let down our guard and we will show the country good results.”
• In Montelíbano, six people were ambushed by armed men on horseback as they exited a public building. According to witnesses, “two people were killed upon leaving the building, another three in the street, and another in front of the police station.” Police and CTI agents in Montelíbano have both claimed that the killings were carried out by members of the right-wing paramilitary group known as “Las Aguilas Negras.”
• Similarly, six armed men are reported to have entered a popular dance club in Baranquilla and killed five people, leaving another nine injured. While many of the victims appear to have been innocent bystanders, Colombian officials claim that the violence was the product of an ongoing war between Los Rastrojos and Los Paisas, which was aggravated after the murderers shot David Alberto Barros Escorcia at the Baranquilla club. A 5 million Pesos reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the violence.
• On November 17th, El Tiempo reported the death of two civilians and one police officer in La Llanura (Nariño) and Toribío (Cauca) respectively. In La Llanura, insurgents are said to have detonated an explosive device and then opened fire on a crowd, leaving a young girl and her grandfather dead. According to police sources, the explosive was meant to harm police forces, which were reportedly in the area. In Cauca, beginning at 4:30 pm, the local police station was berated by mortars. Sources claim that around 6:00 pm, rebel forces began to terrorize the town. According to police reports, an hour after rebels entered the town, police forces, supported by the Colombian Air Force pushed back the rebels, leaving one police officer dead and five others injured. The rebels were reportedly members of FARC’s 6th Front.
While the first 100 days of Santos’ presidency, aside from boasting an 80% approval rating, have shown definite progress in areas of bilateral relationships with Colombia’s neighbors and significant victories against the FARC, violence continues throughout the country.
This post was written by CIP intern Johannes Schmidt.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
With President Juan Manuel Santos’ presidency coming close to its first 100 days, violence continues in Colombia.
On October 21st, the Interdisciplinary Group for Human Rights presented the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a 21-page document titled “Words and Deeds,” which highlighted the violence against human rights activists that has surrounded Santos’ first 75 days in office. The document details the murders of 22 civilians - five activists, seven indigenous leaders, a human rights defender, five trade unionists, two community educators and two members of the LGBT community. In response, the Colombian Ministry of Interior and Justice stated that government planned to recognize the allegations “immediately” and act accordingly. The presenters noted, however, that while there has been a change in style, the way the government deals with violations has not changed much.
The report’s concerns were validated this past week as Sergeant Raul Muñoz Linares was arrested and charged with the murder and rape of three children in the Arauca department. Seven soldiers were also relieved from duty for their alleged involvement as investigations continue. According to EFE, the decapitated bodies of a 14-year-old girl and her two younger brothers (age 6 and 9) were found in a shallow grave near their home in Tame. General Alejandro Navas told Colombian media sources that Linares had confessed to the rape of the young girl and that the military would not tolerate such violations of human rights. As President Santos called for the “full weight of the law” to fall upon the perpetrators, officials have assured that the investigation to identify others responsible is ongoing. Adam Isacson notes, on his blog, that the Colombian government’s stark reaction “is how [the Colombian government] should act every time a serious abuse allegation emerges.”
Paramilitaries have also suffered losses and on October 17th, Everto Higuita Usuga, a commander of the paramilitary-originated drug ring known as “Los Urabeños” was captured in Medellin. According to Colombian police sources, Usuga’s capture worked to weaken Colombian drug rings by “halting the production of at least 5 tons of cocaine per month… and neutralizing the territorial war between ‘Los Urabeños’ and ‘Los Rastrojos.’”
Furthermore, on October 29th, Colombian news sources reported that “two FARC terrorists” were killed during an exchange with Colombian troops from the 20th infantry division in Mapiripán, Meta. Consequently, on the same day, Colombian military sources reported that Ciro Pereza, second in command of the FARC’s 44th Front, surrendered to Colombian forces along with seven other combatants. Military officials have stated that Pereza’s surrender is the biggest setback to an already weakened FARC since last month’s killing of Mono Jojoy.
Setbacks have not deterred FARC, however, and on November 1st, Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Javier Garcia Nieto was killed in Puerto Asis by a mine planted FARC forces. Two other soldiers were also injured.
This post was written by CIP intern Johannes Schmidt
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
On October 7th, Mexico's President Felipe Calderón called Tijuana a "clear example" that his four-year-long security strategy against drug cartels in Mexico has a solution. "Tijuana went from being a city seized by terror and focused only on questions of crime to a city motivated by hope and focused on being competitive," Calderón said. President Calderón made his assertion despite evidence that the number of homicides in 2010 was well on track to surpass last year's 695 murders, with 639 already in 2010.
An October 16th article in the New York Times by Federico Campbell, agreed with President Calderón: "... now Tijuana is recovering. The violence has begun to subside, thanks to the local police and the Mexican military, as well as the capture last January of Teodoro García Simental, an infamous drug lord known as El Teo."
And on October 18th, William Finnegan highlighted the tactics used by Tijuana's Secretary of Public Security Colonel Julian Leyzaola Perez to crack down on corruption in The New Yorker. The tactics described in the article are harsh, with torture, coercion, fear and impunity at their root. The article, though, contended that the harsh tactics appear to be working. People praise Leyzaola's tactics, and the Los Angeles Times called his work a "model for the kind of law enforcement muscle the Mexican government needs to battle organized crime." Finnegan writes, "In the drug wars that rack Mexico--the death toll over the past four years is approaching thirty thousand--Tijuana is an anomaly. It is a place where public security has actually improved."
This recent increase in coverage touting the successes of Tijuana's fight against the drug cartels was put into serious question over the weekend, after 13 people were killed execution-style at a drug rehabilitation clinic. The Sunday evening murders came one week after authorities seized and burned 134 tons of marijuana, seen as a major victory for local, state and federal police. After the killings in Tijuana, an unknown voice was heard over police radios saying "This is a taste of Juárez" and warning that one person will be killed for every ton of marijuana seized.
According to the Finnegan's article in the New Yorker, Leyzaola's tactics to fight the cartels included replacing passive police commanders with army officers, telling the press that "if the cartels understand only the language of violence, then we are going to have to speak in their language and annihilate them." In addition to "annihilating" the cartels, Leyzaola worked to "purify" the Tijuana police force by arresting officers suspected of corruption and forcing the resignations of others, sometimes by torturing police officers until they confessed or provided names of corrupt officers.
In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Nik Steinberg of Human Rights Watch wrote about the danger of promoting the tactics used in Tijuana as a solution to Mexico's security situation. "What's more, the Mexican military and police, whom Mr. Campbell praises for making Tijuana safer, have committed widespread human rights abuses, including more than 100 credible accusations of torture documented by Human Rights Watch, undermining the very security they were sent to restore."
Steinberg notes that "Sadly, if anyone can lay claim to Tijuana it is the cartels, who have never lost control over their illicit trade." Sunday's executions in Tijuana adds to the evidence that, while harsh tactics may bring immediate, short-term results, they are just that: short-term. And until Mexico, and the United States, address the underlying factors driving violence, insecurity and the drug trade, the drug cartels will still be in control of the situation.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Since 2008, Colombia's security forces claim to have killed 7 of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group's top 14 commanders. The group's membership, estimated at over 18,000 by 2002, is now approximately 8,000. With the killing of Jorge Briceño, alias "Mono Jojoy," FARC's top military leader, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced that it was "the beginning of the end" for the already weakened insurgency. However, the FARC persists, while Colombia continues to face violence from groups descended from pro-government paramilitary militias like Los Rastrojos, the Black Eagles, and others linked to drug trafficking.
On October 2nd, the town of Santa Barbara in the southwestern province of Nariño experienced the toll of such urban violence when David Creo, an ex-town councilor, and his family of 4 were killed in their home. Colombia's national ombudsman, Volmar Pérez, reported that the massacre was carried out by 20 armed, unidentified paramilitaries. The murder of Creo and his family forced 83 peasants to seek refuge in the neighboring village of La Soledad. Pérez explained that paramilitary forces and groups working in the "service of drug trafficking" are engaged in disputes over territorial and social control, and added that "comprehensive and effective measures of prevention and protection to guarantee the right to life and (physical) integrity for the civilian population" must be adopted.
In response, on October 4th, President Santos announced that the National Police force would grow by another 20,000 members over the next four years to help fight violence in the nation's urban centers. Furthermore, he promised 300 billion pesos (about US$150 million) towards initiatives to help prevent youth violence, explaining that "public security cannot come independent of democratic security, but is a necessary compliment to ensure...the tranquility of all citizens."
Violence in Colombia has not only been limited to paramilitary activity. On October 11th, a Colombian court found seven members of an elite Colombian military unit guilty of killing a civilian and claiming he was a leftist rebel killed in combat in 2007. This verdict was reached after the October 7th arrest of Colombian Army Major Orlando Arturo Céspedes Escalona, who was arrested for his alleged role in eleven "false positive" murders. The term refers to a mid-2000s epidemic of civilians killed by the military, with their bodies later presented as those of armed groups killed in combat in order to reap rewards. According to some estimates, the Colombian military may be responsible for as many as 3,000 of such murders.
This post was written by CIP intern Johannes Schmidt
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Institutional impunity, human rights violations, and terror continue to fuel Mexico’s weakening security environment. Among the latest pieces of news related to violence in Mexico and drug trafficking:
- Mexican President Felipe Calderón strongly criticized California’s Proposition 19 ballot initiative that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana. Calderón alleged that, if passed, the California provision would encourage U.S. consumption, thus expanding the market for Mexican traffickers.
- U.S. officials reported via the Associated Press that the Zetas drug cartel is thwarting efforts to reclaim the body of David Michael Hartley, a U.S. citizen shot on Lake Falcon, along the Texas-Mexico border, while on a fishing trip. Including Hartley, the death toll for U.S. citizens in Mexico is on pace to exceed the record 90 murders in 2009.
- A USA Today report, “The fear is always there,” documents the dangers of being a Mexican mayor amid the increasing influence of drug cartels. The most recent murder of Antonio Jiménez Baños marks the 12th slaying of a Mexican mayor this year. Experts fear that political assassinations will affect the long-term stability of Mexican democracy because the best and brightest may be too intimidated to run.
- In response to weak police forces and poor information-sharing practices, President Calderón advanced legislation to consolidate police forces, to create a ‘Mando Unico’ that, it is hoped, will weed out corrupt police officers and drug cartel influence. Opponents of the legislation charge that Calderón should focus on strengthening internal affairs units, increasing civilian oversight, and improving information collection on existing police.
- Amid violent political assassinations, impunity, and civil unrest, Slate magazine claims that there are a few lessons Mexico can draw from the Colombian experience.
This post was written by CIP intern Allison Gilchrist
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh) released a new report today on human rights violations in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The report, "Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez: An Analysis of Human Rights Violations by the Military in Mexico," focuses on human rights violations that occurred in Ciudad Juarez in the context of Joint Operation Chihuahua, which began in March 2008, and reviews the drug policies adopted by the Mexican government, with support from the U.S. government, to address the security crisis in Mexico.
Here are a few statistics from the report:
- As of June 2010, roughly 23,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the beginning of President Felipe Calderón's administration in 2006.
- In 2009 alone, more than 8,200 drug-related murders were reported. By June 2010, 6,200 people had been killed so far in the year.
- More than half of the drug-related killings have occurred in the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Guerrero, and Baja California, but drug violence has touched upon every Mexican state and the Federal District in the past 3 1/2 years.
- Since December 2006, SEDENA (Mexico's Department of Defense) has acknowledged it has received a total of 3,981 complaints of human rights abuses filed before the National Commission (prior to June 2010).
- It is estimated that only 25% of crimes in Mexico are reported and only 2% result in a sentence.
In the introduction of the report, the authors write, "This report gives voice to some of the victims of the war against organized crime in Mexico: in particular, individuals who have been abused by the very security forces who are supposed to protect them." Five cases are described in the report involving acts of torture, forced disappearance and sexual harassment of women by Mexican soldiers deployed in Ciudad Juarez. Here is one of the cases:
In August 2008, Roberto drove down the road to the company in Ciudad Juarez where he had worked on the night shift for 25 years. Before he got to work he was stopped at a military checkpoint. The soldiers took him out of his car, inspected it, and in a violent manner asked him questions. What was he doing out in his car at this hour? Where was he going? Why was he nervous? Although he tried to answer in the best way possible, the fear of what had happened to many other people in Ciudad Juarez made him nervous. After the soldiers searched the car, they showed him a packet of drugs [that Roberto did not recognize] and began another interrogation. Where did he get the drugs? Who had sold them to him? Roberto was not able to answer. He had never used drugs, bought or sold them — he was simply going to work.
Roberto was blindfolded, tied by the wrists and taken to an unknown location, that he experienced only by sounds, hard footsteps that came and went, questions from the soldiers, violent blows, and the screams of others being tortured.
After three days of interrogations and beatings, they released him with a warning: "If anyone asks you what happened to you, tell them that you were kidnapped. Remember that we know where your family lives."
"Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez" concludes with this:
While institutional strengthening has been part of the Mexican government's security strategy, the central element has clearly been the deployment of military-led security forces in counter-drug operations. This focus has failed to decreased drug-related violence in Mexico, while also resulting in a dramatic increase inhuman rights abuses.
And offers the following recommendations:
- Effectively withdraw the military from public security tasks;
- Guarantee that human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces are investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities;
- Strengthen Mexico's civil judicial system - the government needs to increase its efforts to implement fully the reforms passed in 2008 and enact measures to address the historic challenges in the system (such as corruption, lack of transparency and weak judicial institutions);
- Development of new systems of internal and external controls, or strengthening existing systems in the police corps, particularly at the state and local levels, are essential so that police officers receive a clear message that they will be sanctioned for any criminal behavior, including human rights abuses.
Read the press release here.
Download the report in English or Spanish.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Public security in Mexico has deteriorated to the point at which, on Sept. 19, the El Diario de Juárez newspaper published a front-page editorial calling out to drug traffickers for guidance in reporting. Titling it “What do you want from us?” El Diario printed the editorial amid increased violence against journalists. To see an English translation of the editorial, click here.
The most recent case of violence against the press involved the shooting of 21 year old El Diario photojournalist Luis Carlos Santiago in a mall parking lot in the border town of Ciudad Juárez. Santiago is just one of atleast 56 people that the Inter American Press Association has confirmed to have been murdered since 2005. Overall, slain journalists are just a handful of the 28,000 total dead since the Calderon administration launched the campaign against drug cartels in 2006.
The El Diario journalist incident is indicative of a larger trend confronting Mexico. In response to Luis Carlos Santiago’s death, the Paris-based Reporters without Borders commented that the “level of violence and mayhem is staggering in many parts of Mexico”. Unable to protect the sanctity of the press, the Calderon administration and law enforcement have demonstrably failed to protect basic human rights and civil liberties of society, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Mexican institutions have also failed to administer the rule of law and protect democratic governance within the country. The editorial also comments on the fact that drug dealers and traffickers have been accepted as the de-facto authorities of whole cities and towns:
“You are the de-facto authority in this city because the legal powers have not been able to do anything to stop our companions from dying”
The editorial also charged that:
“This is not a surrender…This is about a truce with those who have imposed the force of law in this city, so that [they] will respect the lives of those who dedicate themselves to the job of informing the public.”
A free press is of paramount importance in any society, but especially in a society where law enforcement is either too corrupt or too intimidated to answer questions and keep the public adequately informed about the state of their country’s security environment. Some Mexican newspapers, including Imagen from the Zacatecas state, have expressedly stopped reporting on the violence and have printed prepared articles for fear of retaliation; and for good reason. Journalists are often faced with the option of ‘plomo o plata’, or ‘lead or silver’. Essentially, journalists either accept cartel money in exchange for selective reporting, or they will be killed.
The choice has been either silence or death for the Mexican press. Calerdon recently announced an initiative to protect journalists from drug violence and threats. The initiative includes an assistance center for reporters under threat from drug leaders and will move to charge crimes against journalists as a federal offense.
Only time will tell whether or not the initiative can effectively reform the law enforcement that has traditionally been unwilling or too intimidated to protect journalists from the influence of drug cartel violence.
This post was written by CIP intern Allison Gilchrist
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
While there continues to be conflict-related violence throughout Colombia, much of the recent violence seems to be concentrated in the country's urban centers, most notably in Bogotá and Medellín. In both of these urban centers murder rates and gun violence attributed to emerging criminal groups, the apparent successors to the disbanded AUC paramilitary structure, have continued to surge.
According to a report released Thursday, August 18th by the Bogotá mayor's office, there were 938 recorded murders in the Colombian capital between January and July -- 33 more than in the same seven-month span last year. The Ciudad Bolívar district in southern Bogotá had the highest murder rate out of the city's 20 districts, citing 157 murders so far this year, 141 men and 16 women.
On August 13th, less than a week after the inauguration of Colombia's new president Juan Manuel Santos, Bogotá suffered a car bombing on a principal street, near the Caracol Radio network. The attack took place at 5:30 a.m. and injured 36, while damaging 424 homes and offices. Juan Manuel Santos has offered 500 million Colombian pesos (about $250,000) for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the bombing and the government in Cundinamarca, the department around Bogotá, has offered another 30 million pesos. Authorities have arrested three people implicated in the attack, however police are still unsure who is responsible; both right-wing paramilitary groups and the left-wing guerrilla group the FARC are being considered. The Colombian newsweekly Semana has a short overview of the case's conflicting evidence.
Medellín, Colombia's second-largest city, has also experienced an increase in violence. This year there have been 1,322 murders, 12 percent more than the same period in 2009. Comuna 13, located in the central western part of the city with a population of 134,000, continues to be the city's most violent area, registering 12.4 percent of the city’s total death toll. According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, there are more than 140 gangs currently operating in the city- about a dozen or so in Comuna 13 alone- fighting for territorial control and command of drug, gambling, and prostitution rings. There has also been an increase in illegal arms sales throughout the city, which authorities believe indicates the sponsorship of smaller groups by organizations like the "Office of Envigado" headed by Erick Vargas, alias "Sebastian" and Maximiliano Bonilla, alias "Valenciano", and "Los Urabenos" and "Los Rastrojos."
In an effort to thwart the escalating violence, Medellín Mayor Alonso Salazar, police commander General Oscar Naranjo and Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera held a Security Council meeting last weekend after Salazar asked the National Government for additional help in combating the violence. After the meeting, Naranjo announced several new security measures that local authorities would be taking, including the installation of video cameras in particularly violent areas and security checkpoints at the entry points to Comuna 13. He also announced the creation of an "Integrated Intervention Center," the purpose of which will be to study the violence and devise new "preventative" plans to control it, as well as the deployment of 800 extra police to Comuna 13.
On Wednesday August 18th, 14 members of the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group were killed in an aerial attack on an encampment in Tarazá in the Bajo Cauca region of the Antioquia department, about 100 miles northeast of Medellín. In the attack, known as "Operation Alliance," the military leader of the group's "Darío de Jesús Ramírez" front, alias "Éver," was killed. "Ever" had been with the group for 18 years and was allegedly responsible for laying more than 43 landmine fields in the past year. The ELN units affected had also allegedly been coordinating narcoproduction and trafficking operations with FARC fronts in the region.
Over the weekend in Tame, a rural region in Arauca department, FARC leader Jhon Javier Gil, alias "Milton Díaz," was killed along with two other members of the guerrilla group in a clash with the armed forces. "Milton Díaz" was allegedly second in command of the "Alfonso Castellanos" unit of the FARC and responsible for the oversight of several attacks in the region within the past three years. Soldier Abigail Tariffa Cardenas also died in the operation. Also in Arauca over the weekend, in Saravena, soldiers found an escaped Eln member, a four-month-pregnant fourteen year old.
In response to escalating levels of gang-related violence, the Ministry of Defense held a Security Council meeting this past weekend in Montelíbano, in Córdoba department. Since January of this year there have been more than 400 murders in the region, the majority related to the narcotrafficking operations of emerging criminal groups, which have continued to grow, four years after the AUC's official demobilization. According to the People's Defense Council, Cordoba's San Jorge municipality is among the most high-risk zones in the region, as the Troncal roadway, which runs through the area, has become the territorial dividing line between three criminal groups: "Los Urabenos," "Los Paisas" and "Las Aguilas." The situation in Monteria, Córdoba's capital, is equally precarious, as at least 60 people have been killed in the past eight months due to narcotrafficking and gang-related violence.
The council announced several measures to be implemented in the coming months as a "total offensive" against the criminal groups, including an antinarcotics post in Necoclí in Antioquia department, 14 squadrons of border police, and six intelligence bases that will be established in various municipalities throughout Córdoba, as well as in Urabá and Bajo Cauca in Antioquia department.
On Sunday August 15th in Puerto Asís, Putumayo department, two teenage boys were killed, followed by another this past Friday, August 20th. The names of the three boys had appeared on a "death threat" list of 69 names posted on Facebook three weeks earlier and circulated on fliers throughout the town. The flier asked residents to evacuate the town in three days and threatened to continue committing acts like "those on August 15th" should they not comply.
Initially authorities believed the incidents to be a joke, however following a town Security Council meeting on Friday, the town's Defense Council attributed the murders and threats to "Los Rastrojos," a criminal group with a strong presence in several neighborhoods in Puerto Asis. The gang has been linked to various other violent threats, attacks, and intimidation tactics.
On Monday August 23, the Anncol website, which frequently posts FARC communications, posted a letter from the guerrilla group requesting that UNASUR mediate peace talks with the government. In the open statement the FARC Secretariat indicated, "When you deem it opportune, we are ready to explain during a UNASUR assembly our vision of the Colombian conflict." This is following an announcement by President Santos last Tuesday that "military results every day, on different fronts" was how the country is "going to finally achieve peace." He continued, "until we see clear irrefutable proof that the conditions we have given are adhered to, there is no possibility for dialogue." This is the group's second statement mentioning peace talks since President Santos was elected; the first came from leader Alfonso Cano in a video released on July 30th.
This blog post was written by CIP intern Sarah Kinosian