The Colombian government plans to invest a total of $2.3 billion in citizen security for the 2012 to 2015 period, highlighting how localized criminal operations are gaining ground on international drug trafficking as the country’s primary security threat.
President Juan Manuel Santos called the funding, which amounts to 2.4% of the country’s 2013 national budget, an “unprecedented investment” aimed at improving citizen security. The scheme — which will be managed by both the national government and 24 municipal governments — includes the creation of integrated security plans for the participating municipalities and the addition of 25,000 police to the national force, of which 10,000 have already joined.
The president said efforts so far have resulted in a 19 percent reduction in violent deaths and the reduction of robbery by 38 percent for residences, 25 percent for shops, 16 percent for vehicles and 10 percent for individuals, reported El Colombiano.
Also included in the budget is an ongoing initiative targeting micro-trafficking — street level drug dealing — as well as a new offensive announced by Santos to tackle contraband smuggling, which he said would see a “frontal assault” targeting groups involved in the trade and the legitimate businesses that support it.
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Santos’ budget announcement followed shortly after the murder of a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent in Bogota by assailants believed to have been attempting an express kidnapping. The murder, thought to be connected to a local criminal network of thieves, put the issue of citizen security front and center.
Earlier in June, Colombia’s national police chief announced police took down 786 criminal gangs in 2012 and stated that ongoing operations to counter micro-trafficking have been 92 percent effective thus far. Though these numbers were framed as successes, they also highlight the proliferation of small-scale organized criminal activity in Colombia, which has been fuelled by the fragmentation of larger criminal organizations.
Small criminal networks often do not operate in isolation. In June, one Colombian official called contraband trafficking a “national security phenomenon” after contraband networks believed to launder money for the FARC were linked to the murder of an official from the country’s tax and customs police (DIAN). Micro-traffickers similarly have connections with larger criminal groups such as the Urabeños, who serve as wholesalers or take a cut of profits.
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