Colombia's new security push
President Juan Manuel Santos announced a strategic shift in Colombia's struggle against guerrilla rebels and narco-paramilitaries, in part via improved cooperation between government agencies.
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Santos also mentioned the Achilles heel in the entire system, which is the administration of justice. Impunity levels are running at some 90 percent, meaning that the vast majority of those arrested end up walking free, which in turn undermines the credibility of the police. However instead of promising more resources to the justice system, the president simply said that the security forces would work more closely with those who prosecute crimes. This does not inspire a great deal of confidence, nor promise any reduction in the enormous backlog of cases that the attorney general's office and the courts are currently dealing with.Skip to next paragraph
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While his predecessor, President Alvaro Uribe, had the Democratic Security Policy, Santos has dubbed his efforts the Democratic Consolidation Policy. During his speech he again mentioned consolidation, yet his government has had very little success with its policy of establishing specific consolidation zones. These zones are designed to pacify areas so that other organs of the state may slipstream behind the security forces and win over the local population by providing health, education, and social security. However so far these consolidation zones have not only failed to consolidate state presence, but instead in many cases, have become the centers of the civil conflict.
Santos, as defense minister under Mr. Uribe, understands well the security threats. However since 2008, the guerrillas and the BACRIMs have stepped up their actions, and in certain parts of the country retaken the initiative from the security forces. This loss of initiative is most obvious in provinces like Arauca, Cauca, Chocó, Nariño, and Vichada. During this period, the smaller ELN has actually grown from 1,500 to 2,000 fighters, and deepened its involvement in the drug trade. The BACRIMs, foremost among them the Rastrojos and Urabeños, have increased their cooperation with the Marxist rebels, and in at least 11 of the country's 32 departments of provinces, are working with the guerrillas in the interests of the drug trade.
While the perception is that the security situation has worsened, this is not affected the popularity of President Santos, who has just celebrated his first year in office with approval ratings of over 70 percent.
IN PICTURES: Colombia's FARC rebels