Colombia: Head of Colombian Police Resigns

General Naranjo leaves his post as head of the Colombian police.  Drug legalization debate after the Summit of the Americas.  The Patriotic March.

 

General Oscar Naranjo will leave his post as National Police commander at the end of July.

Appointed in 2007 by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, he became an important resource in the ‘Democratic Security’ campaign and a national hero.

For five years he conducted the Colombian police toward a renovation program aimed at improving Police reputation and practices.

Programs such as the ‘National Police for communitarian vigilance of the block’ aimed at re-constituting direct relations between residents and the local policemen to improve the security conditions of the neighborhoods through the direct cooperation of the inhabitants.

Under his supervision, the police began ground-breaking interventions in highly dangerous settings, where unarmed policemen worked in community projects.

Over the past five years, the National Police has begun a new communication strategy through national TV programs and news which have helped to re-build a certain popular confidence in the institution which was at a historical low after corruption and drug trafficking scandals.

General Naranjo is also known for his close ties to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Throughout his career, he has been involved in the fight against various criminal organizations from drug cartels to right-wing paramilitary groups and Guerrillas. He contributed to the dismantling of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel and the Cali cartel of the Rodriguez brothers.

He was also part of many military operations which culminated with the killings or the arrests of important national criminals such as Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias Cuchillo; Daniel Rendón Herrera, alias Don Mario; Diego León Montoya, alias Don Diego y Maximiliano Bonilla, alias Valenciano.

His name became famous internationally because he supervised important anti-FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) operations, among them: the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt, the recent killing of FARC commander Alfonso Cano, and the FARC army chief el Mono Jojoy.

However, the 2008 bombing in Ecuadorian territory of a FARC camp, which killed FARC’s number two in command at the time Raul Reyes became widely controversial.

Together with General Montoya, Ecuadorian authorities later accused him of murdering people in a foreign country. Since then and until President Santos’s administration, diplomatic relations between the two countries turned sour.

Analysts believe that after stepping down from the police, Naranjo may become the new Colombian Ambassador to the U.S. María Ángela Holguín, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that ‘she would be happy if he would join the diplomatic career’.

 

A new era in the war on drugs appears to be dawning.

Despite the initial promises, the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de las Indias closed without remarkable decisions on important continental matters.

However, for the first time in history the issue of drug legalization was discussed publicly by most regional heads of state.

As the Mexican case demonstrates, the war on drugs has been ineffective while the idea of a society without drugs appears more and more a dream distant from reality.

In Colombia, where such a war has been fought for many years, there is an increasing consensus that the country should implement new drug policies. President Santos has called for serious analysis of this issue.

Despite a highly divided population, which has directly suffered the violence of drug traffickers, perceiving the drugs issue as a public health problem is becoming increasingly popular.

International bodies and think tanks around the world seem to agree that policies focused on prohibition and interdiction have clear costs but their benefits are uncertain.

Recent analysis indicates that despite high investments in the war on drugs, cocaine consumption in consumer countries has not decreased, nor have the drug prices on the market.

At the same time, eradication programs of coca cultivations merely displaced coca production from Colombia to Peru and Bolivia, while violence has not decreased.

The recent news of the escalation of drug-related violence in Cali and Medellin seem to confirm these views.

The extradition to the U.S. of major Colombian drug lords and the subsequent fragmentation of the actors involved in drug trafficking has created the conditions for new violence.

City gangs now fight each other for the control of roads, neighbourhoods and the drug trade while national profits decreased after the rise of Mexican cartels.

Freshly elected Cali Mayor Ospina declared that the mushrooming of gang violence in the city can be contained only through a better control of arms flows and through a thoughtful process of legalization of drug trafficking.

If regulating the drug markets seems in principle the best option available for many Latin American countries, various questions are still open on how to de facto legalize drug trafficking.

The creation of a competitive market for drugs would aim primarily at containing violence and also improving the control over the quality of the drugs available to consumers.

This in turn would create a new taxable income, which would increase public revenues. Nonetheless, such a process would presuppose the capacity of national states to actually create a monopoly over local drug trafficking, eventually fighting organized crime on its own ground.

Clearly, the problem is not only of a financial nature but has important ethical implications and depends on the very process of the state formation that Latin American countries are choosing.

 

The Patriotic March 

It was 1985 when the FARC, together with the Colombian Communist Party formed a political party, the Patriotic Union (UP) as part of the peace negotiations that the guerrillas held with the Betancourt administration.

In a few years most of its political cadres had been killed and the peace process collapsed. About 5.000 people belonging to the UP were killed in what many human rights activists have defined as a political genocide.

Almost thirty years later a new political organization recall with its name that precise moment of the recent Colombian history.

The Patriotic March is a new political and social movement born from the widespread necessity of peace of the Colombian citizens and the need of new grass roots politics. It is a federation of more than 1,500 leftwing organizations and associations from 26 districts of Colombia.

Officially born in July 2010, the roots of the movement lie in the 2008-2009 political demonstrations of sugar cane peasants and indigenous populations.

Its leaders belong to organizations that for many years have been working daily on the construction of peace on the ground. Among them there are also important peasants associations such as the ‘Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra,’ which won the Colombian Peace prize in 2010.  The movement is also composed by exponents of the student movement (FEU) and by the long persecuted workers unions of the country.

National news reported intelligence briefing stating that the movement is infiltrated and funded by the FARC, who want to form a legitimate political party.

Conversely, leaders of the Patriotic March accuse the press of trying to stigmatize the movement which will take to the streets of Bogota this weekend.

Despite this, various analysts consider important that more radical political groups search for a political space, openly demonstrating their dissent and desire for change.

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