BOGOTÁ, Colombia – “We want to make drug trafficking in Colombia unworkable.”
That’s how Rodrigo Rivera, Colombia’s minister of Defense, described the main goal of the country’s new Comprehensive Security Policy for Prosperity (PISDP).
Officials want the policy to become a road map in their fight against guerrilla groups, narco-traffickers and gangs.
“We are going to make our region impossible for drug traffickers,” Rivera said during a May 24 media conference. “In a long time, this is the first administration able to propose – with a dose of realism but a high dose of ambition – that the objective is definitely to put an end to these criminal structures.”
Adm. Edgar Augusto Cely, general commander of the armed forces, is confident the policy will work “because one of its pillars is an increase in coordination and integration of the institutions in charge of security. This will allow a broader vision of how to attack the vital points of the criminal organizations that work in Colombia.”
The PISDP also has five other central goals to strengthen the Andean nation’s fight against terrorism:
A substantial improvement in intelligence;
Strengthening of the leadership and control;
Strategic protection of the population;
Strategic application of force;
Respect for human rights and international humanitarian rights.
Thirteen institutions will collaborate and follow 19 strategies and 130 specific actions, according to the PISDP. The policy also is aimed at reducing homicides, kidnappings, extortions, pirating of land and other crimes by 50% by 2025.
“The objective of the policy is to ensure that there will be no more criminal gangs in our country,” President Juan Manuel Santos recently told reporters. “We are going to guarantee the upholding of the rule of law, of security and justice in our country and always guarantee respect for human rights.”
Adm. Álvaro Echandía, commander of the Colombian Navy added: “It is important to remind Colombians that the [new] policy will allow us to focus our efforts on the country’s security problems. We have also divided [certain areas] with colors [reflecting] the intensity of our operations. For example, in the red zones, military authorities will be responsible for fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). There are also yellow and green zones in which the attacks will be less intensive, but the controls will be an everyday occurrence, therefore we will be watching over the country from every angle. The idea is not just to fight drug trafficking and terrorist groups, but also to fight corruption.”
Iván Camilo Ortiz, a student studying political science at the Universidad Javeriana, said the policy shows the government has accepted the country is mired in an internal conflict.
“It is important that the country’s authorities [fight against] the three terrorist groups that the [new] policy focuses on: the FARC, the ELN and the criminal gangs,” he said.
Echandía said Colombians should report all crimes to officials.
“The strategy is solid and it guarantees prosperity in the country,” he said. “But this is not just an effort by the military forces or by the government. It is a project for us all.”
“The policy represents an appropriate combination of continuity and change. Continuity with the Policies of Democratic Security (2002-2006) and the Consolidation of Democratic Security (2006-2010),” Rivera wrote in the PISDP document. “Colombia must put an end to the last cycle of violence that has gone on now for 47 years, while at the same time it attends to its needs for defense. This is why it is important to take a more ambitious road.”
Germán Ortiz, a specialist in internal conflicts and professor at the Universidad del Rosario, said the PISDP comes at a good time, considering Santos already has achieved success in his fight against narco-traffickers, guerrilla groups and organized crime since taking office in August 2010.
“We must remember that, after being the largest producer in the world of cocaine for 30 years, President Santos’ administration has been able to take Colombia off the watch list of the International Narcotics Control Board,” Ortiz said. “This result alone indicates that the government’s actions are on the right track and must be made the standard within a policy that allows crime to be fought from every angle.”
Santos’ administration has scored major victories in the fight against narcotics this year.
Authorities confiscated 80.8 tons of narcotics, including more than 10 tons seized by the army, during the first quarter of 2011. The number is expected to increase, considering law enforcement agents and the military continue their raids nationwide, according to the Colombian daily El Espectador.
Colombian police eliminated more than 27 narco-trafficking groups last year. The army has destroyed several drug-producing laboratories nationwide so far in 2011.
Authorities also are keeping residents safer.
In the capital of Bogotá, the number of homicides fell by 3%, thefts dropped by 10% and extortions decreased by 30% during the first four months compared to the same time period in 2010, according to the Colombian daily El Tiempo.
But the victories have come with a steep price.
The number of law enforcement agents who have been killed in the line of duty increased 37% during the first four months of the year compared to the same period in 2010, according to El Tiempo.
“Let there be no mistake: There is still much to be done,” Ortiz said, adding he’s confident the PISDP will lead to decreasing the crime rates in the jungle, rural and urban areas.
Santos said he will keep fighting crime among his administration’s highest priorities.
“Some believe we are lowering our guard,” he said. “What I say to them is that no one has to show me how to hit the guerrilla groups hard, because I have done it for the last few years. If we have to hit them harder, we will hit them harder.”
Rivera agrees with Santos.
“This policy means that we are going to work much more and much better,” Rivera said. “If the enemy and the threats evolve, so too must the strategy evolve to confront them.”