Frederico Gutiérrez’s tenure as mayor of Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, is off to a dubious start, plagued by a recent crime wave, rampant political corruption and a sharp increase in murders and thefts. The situation has become critical in the last month, as the city’s western neighborhood of Altavista has devolved into a turf war between gangs, with students still unable to attend schools Many shops also remain closed.
Medellín’s Ex-Secretary of Security, Gustavo Villegas, was recently imprisoned because of his relationship with criminal organizations, specifically “La Oficina de Envigado”, the mafia organization pioneered by drug lord Pablo Escobar. Since his conviction on July 4th, there have already been 40 more murders in the city.
Jaime Mejía, who represents the Centro Democrático party in Medellin, demanded that Federico Gutiérrez provide answers and solutions to these issues. He pleaded with the administration to deploy more innovation and technology to confront the crime wave, including already purchased technological tools such as IBIS (a ballistic and biometric repository) to identify criminals. The technology has not been deployed properly, as police have only entered 10% of their criminal cases into this system since 2015.
Some have taken Mejía’s criticisms one step further, accusing Gutiérrez’s government of being in league with criminals and tacitly ignoring criminal activity.
Criminal organizations are increasingly recruiting children to commit crimes, as children are protected under Colombian law from prosecution. More than 40% of the city’s 13,000 gang members are comprised by minors, according to Mejía. Urgent government intervention is needed to provide a more comprehensive approach to the problem, including better education, more security, and social inclusion, he said.
Medellin resident Luis Yepes told Publimetro that residents in the city’s Altavista neighborhood are unable to leave their homes before 6am and after 8pm due to both the threat of street violence and limitations on public transportation that have been imposed by the gangs. He said that the city’s mayor is not listening to resident’s concerns.
“Crime has destroyed the qualify of life for many people, more than anything people who live in the poorest areas of the city are pleading with the administration for a solution. Every day we see more robberies, more deaths“, Yepes said.
More than anything, Yepes indicated that the city has been silent, seemingly paralyzed by the crisis.
“The most basic and important thing is that residents are giving the city everything they need to bring these people to justice. If the city is secretly negotiating with these criminals, that is fine, but that needs to be made public.”