Friday, 13 February 2009

Colombia Security Improvements Put Under Question by Several Analysts


Bogotá: Homicides fell more than 70 percent in the past ten years until
Mayor Samuel Moreno took office in early 2008. God, have mercy
and help us impeach that idiot!


In a report released to customers, a London-based risk intelligence company (I omit its name for obvious reasons) recently said that, despite recent releases, guerrillas will continue to kidnap. Potential victims include cattle ranchers and businessmen, children and government officials in Antioquia, Bogotá and the southern part of the country.

This seems quite important to highlight, especially in the eve of political turmoil involving the possible re-election bid by President Alvaro Uribe. As you might know, a series of hostage releases by the FARC (the guerrilla group unilaterally released six kidnap hostages, including the last two politicians they held) took place last week. The releases marked the end of a 10-year strategy ordered by former FARC leader Manuel Marulanda to kidnap high-profile politicians in order to force a prisoner exchange. Some local and foreign analysts say the releases obey to a reaction by the new FARC leadership to quell public dissatisfaction with the abduction of civilians. The FARC still holds some 700 hostages for ransom and won't give up on kidnapping -- the group seems to necessitate supplemental extortion and kidnapping incomes.

The thing is, despite a reduction in guerrilla abductions, independent criminal groups operating in major cities are increasing operations. We have talked frequently about the deterioration of personal and business security in Bogotá. In recent days, a factory owned by a relative of mine was the target of an armed robbery. Apart from stealing office material, cash and personal belongings, some workers were pointed at with guns, with some being beaten up. In Cartagena crime is heightening. Cali, tells me a friend of mine, is a scary place to go at night. Some of these abductions take the shape of ''express kidnappings,´´ a modality very popular in Caracas and Brazilian cities like São Paulo, where victims are snatched from the street and forced to withdraw money at cash points until their card limits are reached. The risk assessment firm says highest risk provinces include Antioquia, metropolitan Bogota, Tolima, Valle de Cauca, Narino, Arauca and Cundinamarca. Business owners, children, public officials, drivers and cattle ranchers tend to be the main targets.

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