HomeNewsBriefColombia Seeks to Contain Extortion by Doubling Sentences
BRIEF

Colombia Seeks to Contain Extortion by Doubling Sentences

COLOMBIA / 8 AUG 2013 BY JEREMY MCDERMOTT EN

Colombia, suffering explosive growth in extortion demands, is seeking to almost double sentences for those convicted of the crime.

In a legislative project to be brought before Congress, the Colombian government plans to almost double the maximum sentence for extortion from 18 to 32 years. The minimum sentence for those convicted of extortion would jump from 8 to 16 years.

Some estimates have put the annual criminal income from extortion at over $1 billion. According to the specialized anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion unit of the police, the GAULA, small businesses pay between $250 and $2500 a month, depending on their earnings. Even many street vendors have to pay extortion fees of up to a dollar a day to be allowed to operate.

If the law is passed, it would bring the sentencing for extortion into the same range as that for murder. The average conviction for premeditated murder in Colombia is around 25 years.

InSight Crime Analysis

Extortion used to be the preserve of Marxist rebels, who targeted the big national and multinational corporations. Today, while the rebels are still deeply involved in extortion, they have been overtaken by the new generation of drug trafficking groups, known as the BACRIM (from the goverment’s description of the groups as “bandas criminals”). The profile of the victim has also changed dramatically. The extortion of big companies and multi-nationals has actually fallen, while “micro extortion” has undergone explosive growth, with most victims now local shop owners and small businesses.

Broadly speaking, the rebels impose most of their extortion demands in rural areas, or the smaller urban centers, although there are indications that the guerrillas are seeking to expand their extortion activities into the major cities. However in the top three urban centers of Colombia — the capital Bogota, Medellin and Cali — extortion rackets are predominantly run by local street gangs or the BACRIM.

The introduction of this legislation is perhaps a knee-jerk reaction by the government, which is fighting the general perception that the security situation is worsening, even as it engages in peace talks with the Marxist insurgency. What is clear is that crime, particularly in the urban centers, is increasing, and extortion is leading the charge.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 1 APR 2013

Colombia's ailing "Emerald Czar," Victor Carranza, has called for a new peace deal with his rivals as fears mount over…

COLOMBIA / 19 JUL 2012

US prosecutors have charged retired Colombian police General Mauricio Santoyo with drug trafficking with alleged ties to cartels and paramilitary…

COLOMBIA / 11 NOV 2019

Even before the signing of the 2016 peace agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government, it was clear that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…