Homicides in Colombia have fallen more than nine percent in the last year continuing a national long term trend, but fluctuations in the murder rates in certain regions highlight the continuing violent impact of organized crime turf wars.
Police data for 11 months of 2013 shows a 9.1 percent decrease in the national homicide rate compared to 2012, reported El Tiempo. Police recorded 13,153 homicides as of November 29 -- 1,279 fewer than the previous year.
The city of Cali and its metropolitan area had the country's highest murder rate, recording nearly 2,000 homicides so far in 2013. Homicides also increased in the cities of Buenaventura, Bucaramanga, Pereira and Neiva, and in seven departments.
In contrast, the city of Medellin saw a 26 percent decrease, dropping from 1,137 in 2012 to just 842 this year, while murders in the metropolitan area fell from 1,572 to 1,202. Another notable fall was in the city of Cucuta near the Venezuela border, where there were 312 murders -- 108 less than the year before.
Capital city Bogota remained relatively stable, registering 1,119 murders -- 14 less than in 2012.
InSight Crime Analysis
The statistics confirm a number of trends in Colombia, where overall homicides have been decreasing for more than a decade but specific areas are prone to dramatic fluctuations related to organized criminal activity.
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In Medellin the large drop in murders has coincided with the criminal pact struck between the previously warring criminal organizations Oficina de Envigado and the Urabeños, making the local authorities' claims it is related to law enforcement initiatives spurious at best.
In contrast Cali has entered a period of "criminal chaos," as street gangs fight bloody territorial battles, many on behalf of the advancing Urabeños or the remnants of the Rastrojos, which are putting up stiff resistance to cling onto territory that was their heartland before the implosion of the group as a national criminal organization.
The Urabeños' attempt to seize what had been Rastrojos territory in the southwest is likely also behind the violence in Buenaventura, where they have been locked into a ferocious battle with a local gang that had previously operated as part of the Rastrojos franchise -- La Empresa. All indications are the Urabeños have now driven out La Empresa and control the port, which may now see a drop in violence.
This is likely what has happened with the reduction in violence in Cucuta, where although police say the Rastrojos retain a presence in the region, which they once dominated, the Urabeños seem to have won the battle for the city. However, the group now appears to be in the midst of a complex and violent internal dispute, which may reverse the trend.