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Colombia: President Calls on Citizens to be Crime Informants

At the end of January, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe made some statements about the importance of reporting violent crime. Specifically, he called upon university students in the city of Medellín and taxi drivers in the city of Cali, as possible informants. This caused a national debate, which was also reflected on the internet. This specific idea comes at a time when violent crime around Colombia has been increasing. For example, the number of homicides in Medellín in 2009 more than doubled from the number of homicides in 2008. The difficulties to maintain public order is happening in various cities across Colombia.

Xady of the blog Expresáte [es] writes about a recent episode where he was unable to play a game of football outside with his friends in a neighborhood of Medellín because of this uncertain security situation:

Hace 8 días llamaron los muchachos:

  • Entonces, a las 4 de la tarde porque el resto de la gente no puede más temprano.
  • Listo, me arreglo y en un momentico subo para echarle aire a los balones.

Quince minutos más tarde me llama alguien y me dice, no salga de la casa porque esto se va a prender… y claro una fuente de confianza nunca falla. A los cinco minutos de haber recibido la llamada doy varios pasos para salir a la puerta y al frente de mi casa….

  • Plaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplapla, se prendió esto y ahora si vamos a ver quién es quién. Dijo un duende.
  • Plazplazplazplazplaz. Respondieron desde el otro lado.

Eight days ago, my friends called:

  • OK, so at 4 p.m., because the others cannot play any earlier.
  • Fine, I'll get ready and shortly I will go up to put air in the footballs.

Fifteen minutes later, someone calls me to say, don't leave the house because it is going to get bad outside…and of course, a trusted source is never wrong. Five minutes after receiving the call, I take a few steps to leave my house and in front of my house…

  • Plaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplaplapla, this became a bad situation and now we'll see who is who. Said an elf (armed person)
  • Plazplazplazplazplaz. Answered the other side.

Uribe's proposal appeals to “respect for the norms of co-existence” and that this information is necessary so that the Security Forces can help reduce the number of violent crimes, of which students have been the victims. However, Uribe's idea does not come without additional incentive. He proposed that those who acted as informants could receive 100,000 Colombian pesos (approximately US$50) per month.

Vladdo, of the blog Havladdorías [es], writes:

Muchos analistas y medios se han referido ya al espinoso asunto de los informantes que quiere reclutar el gobierno, y la verdad es que volver a hablar de las inconveniencias que conlleva transformar a la ciudadanía en un ejército de soplones es llover sobre mojado.

Many analysts and media outlets have already made reference to the thorny issue of the informants that the government wants to recruit, the truth is that we return to talking about the inconvenience that it means by turning citizens into an army of informants, it makes no sense.

Some are worried about whether or not the students place themselves at risk for providing information or the quality of information that might be provided. Paloma Valencia of El Diario del Huila who said:

Hay un temor ante lo que se ha denominado la satanización de profesores y compañeros, ahí hay que distinguir la acción de proveer la información y la manera como las autoridades públicas van a utilizarla. Será necesario tener procedimientos de verificación.

There is a fear of what has been called the satanization of professors and students, one must distinguish between providing information and the way the public authorities will use that information. There is a need to have a process of verification.

The statements from the President have been the object of numerous reactions that could be seen on Twitter, as from Mauricio Mosquera (@mauromosquera), who writes that there could be a better use of the money:

100 mil pesos mensuales para los estudiantes que no falten a clase!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

100 thousand pesos per month for the students that do not miss classes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
'Something tells me that MaPis works for the government' Illustration by Xtian and used with permission.
‘Something tells me that MaPis works for the government’ Illustration by Xtian and used with permission.

In the same manner, Uribe also called upon the 31,000 taxi drivers in the city of Cali, another group that has been hit especially hard by violent crime. The website for W. Radio opened up a forum where citizens could respond to the question [es]: What do you think of the proposal by President Uribe to link the taxi drivers of Cali as government informants?”

152 Alexa | 02/03/10 06:37:03 writes:

Pues me parece bien . es un deber de todos los cidadanos informar a las autoridades los hechos delictivos lo que sucede es que a medida que los dias pasan en este pais la delicuencia va tomando mas fuerza. y aveces nos vemos obligados a callar muchas cosas que se ven y se saben . por las represarias hacia los nuestros.

I think it is fine, it is a duty of all the citizens to inform the authorities about crime that happens on a daily basis in this country. Crime is becoming stronger and at times we are forced to remain silent about the things that are seen and are known for the reprisals against us.

139 Castro | 02/02/10 17:57:39 writes:

Esta es la seguridad democratica? mas bien deberian pensar en seguridad educacional el pais necesita gente que piense en grande con educacion se termina el flagelo de la violencia aaahh y empleo empleo porque hay mucho desempleado sin saber que hacer.

This is democratic security? They should think about educational security instead. The country needs educated people that think big, because everything ends in violence. And jobs, because there is a lot of unemployment that no one knows what to do.

In addition, Vladdo expresses himself in this manner, by saying that it is a bad idea [es]:

Las propuestas del Presidente han llegado a tal extremo, que hasta los propios furibistas están aterrados, o por lo menos sorprendidos, con la sola idea de convertir en informantes a los universitarios de Medellín y a los taxistas de Cali. Después seguirán los loteros de Pasto, los artesanos de Leticia o los vendedores ambulantes de Bogotá. El argumento de que quien no es informante es cómplice de los crímenes que crecen sin cesar en las ciudades (cosa previsible, tras ese retorcido proceso de paz y la supuesta desmovilización de las AUC) se cae por su propio peso.

The President's proposals have reached the extreme, in that even the furibistas (his supporters) are terrified, or at least surprised, with the single of idea of turning university students in Medellín and taxi drivers in Cali into informants. Later, he will ask the LOTEROS in Pasto, the artisants in Leticia, or the street vendors in Bogotá. The argument that whoever is not an informant is an accomplice to growing problem of crime in the cities (which is to expected after this twisted peace process and the supposed demobilization of the AUC) falls under its own weight.

  • http://medeamaterial.blogspot.com Juliana Rincón Parra

    In the news I also read how people in the neighborhoods experiencing the new violence reacted to the 100 000 pesos fee for ratting people out: basically, it is too little money for risking life as an informer, and the “other side” pays much more money.

  • Pingback: Colombia, Please Listen to Lil’ Wayne and Stop Snitching | Pursuances

  • Luke

    I am an American who has visited Colombia many times over the past three years. I am young, 28, and have never been the victim of a crime in Colombia until February of this year ,when I was the victim of an attempted robbery in Pasto. I have been to Pasto many times and was assaulted one block from the Plaza Narino on a Saturday night. I fought off my young attackers who were armed with screwdrivers. It seems to me that there is increasing poverty in Pasto and the element of danger is greater than in the past. Can anyone comment on this specific situation in Pasto? Thank You.

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