The Democratic Security policy of the current Uribe administration has proved successful for a while, but with the FARC showing force in rural areas and drug related crime in cities surging, the policy needs a serious revamp.
A few news items of these days: Colombia still is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Town councilors in the provinces Huila and Caquetá feel threatened by the FARC. In the village Garzón in Huila a few days ago, guerrillas entered the town hall and the Palace of Justice, killing four people and kidnapped a town councilor and crime in the big cities in surging.
On Caracol Radio chairman Eduardo Pizarro of the National Commission on Reconciliation and Amends repeated this morning that he is worried about the amount of former paramilitary fighters who join arms again. Colombia Reports published a little more than a month ago that Pizarro estimates that 2500 of the former 31000 paramilitaries rearmed.
That raises the question if the so much praised politics of democratic security of Colombia’s president Álvaro Uribe is efficient enough. In these days of possible reelection of Uribe and a probable referendum to make that possible for the second time, The President has stated repeatedly that the politics of democratic security should continue, and many agree with him. Even a part of his opponents. Nobody can deny that Colombia has become safer, since Álvaro Uribe assumed the Presidency.
The most important question now is if the so much boasted successes of the Colombian army of the last years are indeed as successful as suggested. Without any doubt the army and the police should go on in their fight against all the armed groups who are making this country suffer so much.
But at the same time it is useful to keep some things in mind. For example: several former hostages when they were liberated stated that the FARC have no problems in recruiting new, very young fighters. Luis Eladio Pérez for example states in his book 7 años secuestrado por las FARC that the FARC are better armed and better prepared to move in the jungle than the army. Many (young) fighters desert, but on the other hand many join the group. So the FARC are far from extinguished yet. It is better to recognize it than to want to make public opinion believe that they are almost finished.
Moreover, a while ago Unicef in Colombia warned that more children in the country will join illegal armed groups because of increasing poverty, following the worldwide economic recession.
That is a problem any government will have to deal with, be it ‘Uribista’ or not. Democratic security is fine, but it should be improved, military and socially, so that poor young people don’t feel seduced to join a violent group that gives them food and clothing. One of the examples, not just eradicate coca, but also give people alternatives, convince them that they are as much a Colombian citizen as those who live ‘far away’, in a town with water and electricity. It happens already, in Vistahermosa, and it should be done in many more areas.
A few days ago Uribe announced a new phase in democratic security: the Navy is going to be strengthened in order to help the population which is liberated from terrorism, as he says it. Well, that might be a good start.
This column was published in Colombia Reports.