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Cable 999: Illegal Armed Groups Continue to Undermine Security in Northern Colombia

Cable 999: Illegal Armed Groups Continue to Undermine Security in Northern Colombia

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Published by Andres
This is a 2007 US embassy report summarizing evidence of continuing violence and organized crime activity by demobilized paramilitaries and other illegal armed groups in the department of Bolivar in northern Colombia.
This is a 2007 US embassy report summarizing evidence of continuing violence and organized crime activity by demobilized paramilitaries and other illegal armed groups in the department of Bolivar in northern Colombia.

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Published by: Andres on Jul 05, 2012
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02/15/2013

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O 191728Z APR 07FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4163C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 002575SUBJECT: BOLIVAR'S SECURITY SITUATION STILL A CONCERN POST PARAMILITARY DEMOBILIZATION
Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer.Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)
-------Summary-------
¶1. (C) On March 20, Poloff visited the formerconflict-ridden Bolivar department where theoverall security, political, and economic situationhas improved sharply since 2002. Still, anincrease in common crime and other security-relatedproblems remain a challenge. The security andsocial situation is particularly acute in southernBolivar, where poverty is widespread and illegalarmed groups still operate. The local NationalRegistrar's Office said prospects for transparentregional elections in October have improved due tothe paramilitary demobilization, but warned illegalarmed groups--FARC and new criminal groups--remaininfluential in specific municipalities. Endsummary.
 
---------------------------Key Improvements Since 2002---------------------------
¶2. (C) Governor Libardo Simancas said Bolivar isthe biggest department on the north Atlantic coast.GOC presence has always been weak, especially inrural areas, allowing illegal armed groups tooperate freely. Still, its overall security,political, and economic situation has improvedsharply over the last five years. Before 2002, 14of the 44 municipalities in the department had nosecurity presence; residents were unable to travelsafely throughout the department; the FARC and AUCcompeted for control; and kidnappings occurreddaily. Pursuant to President Uribe's democraticsecurity policy, the GOC has now established asecurity presence in every municipality, forcingthe FARC to withdraw to more remote areas. Theparamilitary process and subsequent demobilizationalso reduced violence and illicit activity,boosting economic growth.3. (C) Bolivar Prosecutor General's Office(Fiscalia) Sectional Chief Ibet Hernandez saidgreater security encouraged the population toinform authorities about illegal activities.Currently her office receives some 3,000 tips permonth. To tackle common crime, Hernandez said theFiscalia and police are cooperating to ensure thatcriminals are not immediately released due to lackof evidence. This cooperation gives Bolivar one ofthe highest conviction rates in the country.
 
----------------------------Crime Still of Great Concern----------------------------
¶4. (C) Despite the overall improved security,Ombudsman Arturo Zea said common crime in parts ofBolivar has worsened since the last Embassy visitin September 2006 (ref. A). Between 2005 and 2006,murders in Cartagena rose from 230 to 270,primarily due to score settling among formerparamilitaries. The police have more personnel,but the demand for security for VIP visits inCartagena distracts them from focusing on attackingcrime. Zea said the day prior to our visit,criminals stole three computers that held fouryears of information on 1,500 victims ofparamilitaries, including pictures and biographicaldata. He believed the robbers had targeted thissensitive information because other valuableequipment was left behind. (Note: Local UN HighCommission for Refugees office head Roberto Meiertold Ambassador Shapiro April 18 there has been aseries of break-ins targeting computer files ofvictims' testimony, suggesting a concerted effortby some former paramilitaries to disrupt theJustice and Peace Law process.)5. (C) Zea warned about growth of illegalsecurity cooperatives around the city, which aremostly formed by ex-paramilitaries. NationalPolice Commander Col. Carlos Mena said they hadidentified at least eight illegal securitycooperatives in neighborhoods in Cartagenademanding security fees from residents. Col. Mena

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