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ANALYSIS

Thousands Displaced in Medellin

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

In Colombia there are reports by El Tiempo that the urban violence in Medellin has displaced at least 1,870 people so far this year. Those are only the official numbers kept by the city's Ombudsman's Office.

Ever since a massive gunfight broke out between rival gangs on August 13 and August 25, the gang warfare in Medellin's Comuna 13 has been drawing intense scrutiny from the central government. Before traveling to Brazil, President Santos visited the military base just outside Medellin, in order to announce the mobilization of 1,000 police reinforcements in the city.

Despite military and police presence and despite receiving a good deal of social investment, including new schools, libraries and a metrocable line, Comuna 13 still has one of the highest murder rates in Medellin, producing 30 percent of the city's homicides. The two rival factions of Medellin's mafia organization, the Oficina de Envigado have been battling for control of the city's micro-trafficking business since late 2009, with an approximate 3,600 members in an estimated 123 street gangs.

Insight Crime has also received some reports that Erick Vargas, alias "Sebastian," the leader of the Oficina's larger faction, has temporarily returned to Medellin from an unknown homebase outside the city, in order to take a leading role in the Comunas' street battles. Even if it means fighting it out block by block Sebastian seems intent on gaining a territorial edge over his rival Maximiliano Bonilla, alias "Valenciano," currently based in the coastal city Barranquilla.

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