Colombia's most prominent criminal organization, the Gaitanistas, have publically claimed responsibility for a major decline in murders in Medellin in 2013, challenging city authorities' claims that security forces are behind the decrease.
The Gaitanistas' assertion was made in a leaflet distributed throughout Comuna 8 -- an eastern district that is a hotbed of gang violence -- amid a 26.5 percent drop in murders between 2012 and 2013, reported El Espectador. Murders fell from 1249 to 920 during that period, the newspaper said.
SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profiles
The decline in murders comes just months after a pact between the Gaitanistas, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), and the Oficina de Envigado, a rival criminal group whose disparate street gang allies operate in much of the city.
However, while murders have tumbled, disappearances have increased with 582 occurring up to November 2013, compared to 521 in all of 2012, reported El Colombiano.
InSight Crime Analysis
Local authorities in Medellin have refused to acknowledge the pact between the AGC and the Oficina, claiming that the security gains signaled by the drop in homicides are a result of successful police actions against the city's criminal groups.
However, the version put forward by the AGC is much more credible. While the two sides were in conflict and waging war through street gang proxies, the authorities seemed incapable of reining in the violence and bringing security to the city. In contrast, since the pact was signed in July, the murder rate has fallen dramatically. In November, the mayor's office announced that October 2013 had the lowest number of homicides in 30 years.
The premise of the pact, it should be noted, was not to bring peace to the city, but to allow the criminal groups to focus on making money rather than fighting each other. This too appears to be working, as residents complain of rises in other crimes such as extortion.
SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado Profile
But the pact also pays clear political dividends. And, unlike the Oficina de Envigado, the AGC like to maintain the pretense they are a political organization in the mold of their paramilitary predecessors, capable of replacing the state when it fails.
Still, even while talking peace, the criminal group may also laying the groundwork for future conflict: the missive makes no specific mention of the Oficina, which could suggest the AGC see themselves as the dominant partner in the relationship and sparking yet another round of fighting for this city.