Colombia: Medellin tastes fear again

gun by

gun by

A few days ago we wrote about the return of curfews and restrictions on male passengers on motorcycles, both created by the government to ensure security in the city, but now, the ones spreading fear are unknown authors of leaflets and fliers sent under doors and passed hand to hand which state that no one is allowed after 9 or 10 pm at night in the streets of certain areas of the city, in an effort to cleanse it of unwanted denizens.

All this has surfaced through Twitter,  on different blogs and in the comment thread of Juan David Escobar's blog post Welcome, Once Again, to the City of Fear, which we mentioned last week.  On the comments, Programator writes:

por la casa de una amiga pusieron lo siguiente: “Acueste a sus hijos o nosotros los acostamos”, toque de queda, 10.00pm, Robledo Kennedy. Es absurdo cómo el tiempo no parece pasar, y volvemos a lo mismo, lo mismo de siempre, inseguridad y peligro en las calles. Por mi casa pasan policias cada rato persiguiendo traquetos en motos, una vez tuve que esconderme en casa de unos vecinos cuando venia del trabajo, porque “Por ahí están, venga, venga mientras pasa todo y se queda aquí”. Y esas palabras asustan, bastante. Y más si las cosas pasan cerca a tu casa.

By a friend's house they wrote: “Put your kids down to sleep or we will put them down” Curfew, 10:00pm, Robledo Kennedy [Ed. note: A neighborhood in the city of Medellin]. It is absurd how it seems that time doesn't pass, and we go back to the same, the same old thing, insecurity and danger in the streets. By my house police pass all the time following traquetos [Ed. note: link between the croppers and the traffickers] on motorcycles, I once had to hide in a neighbor's house when I was coming home from work because “There they are, come in, come in while this blows out, stay here”. These words are frightening, very much so. Most of all if they happen close to home.

Solo para mujeres writes in her blog a conversation that is probably taking place throughout the city:

*Mira pues, a mi casa llego una hoja que dice, que dizque no se puede estar en la calle después de las nueve de la noche porque no responden por su vida.

-¡¡¡Hay que susto!!!… pero yo había escuchado que era que no se podía andar en moto.

*No, no mija es que esa la puso Salazar y la que yo digo no se sabe quien, como aquí hay tanto quien prohíba.

*Would you believe, that a flier arrived at my house saying that suposedly no one is allowed out on the streets after nine at night because they won't be accountable for their lives.

-My! That is scary!!! but I had heard that the restriction was that no motorcycles were allowed.

*No, no dear, that one Salazar established and the one I'm saying no one knows, since there are so many people here prohibiting things.

The authorities have played down the importance of these threats, according to newspaper El Mundo [es], stating that these groups aim to scare and that what is going on is a turf war. They hope that the extra police forces that are coming to Medellín for the Assembly of the Inter- American Development Bank at the end of the current month will help to defuse the situation.

Regarding the IDB's meeting, El Inspector writes about how there is an urge to present an advanced, organized and peaceful city to the members of the Development Bank:

Tenemos la responsabilidad de presentarles una excelente imagen a los ilustres visitantes, para el bien de Colombia. Pero es más grande la obligación con los medellinenses y paisas en general, de asumir con pantalones que hay una creciente sensación de inseguridad y derramamiento de sangre.

No hay que maquillar cifras de criminalidad y eludir el debate sobre la seguridad. Bienvenidos los del BID, pero también bienvenida la sinceridad.

We have the responsibility to give an excellent impression to our distinguished visitors, for Colombia's sake. But greater than that is their duty towards Medellin's citizens and paisas in general, to bravely accept that there is a growing sensation of insecurity and bloodshed.

There is no need to disguise the criminality rates and avoid the debate on security. Welcome, IDB guests, but also welcome honesty.

On LaFm radio, fliers sent in the downtown area of the city were mentioned, with the same result, authorities keep insisting that people shouldn't worry. Out on the streets, the story is quite different.

Angelfire posts on twitter:

Tengo muchisimas ganas de una cerveza hoy, pero pongo un pie en la calle y me dejan como un colador a punta de bala <_> :(

I really want a beer tonight, but if I step out onto the street they'll leave me looking like a collander with bullet sized holes <_> :(

Other tweets state that flyers have been delivered, and that there are 20 dead in 15 days, and that he even witnessed a shooting this morning, with bullets ricocheting off a balcony.

So why is this taking place? The Popular Training Institute has a hypothesis after many years working with marginal communities:

“Mientras existió un “patrón” en la ciudad, alguien con quien negociar, la criminalidad disminuyó, pero ahora que no lo hay, sube. El dilema está en si se negocia con un nuevo actor hegemónico o se fortalece la justicia para combatir la delincuencia”, afirmó Balbín.

While there was a “patrón” [boss] in the city, someone with whom to negotiate, the criminality was reduced, but now that there is no one, it rises. The dilemma is in whether one negotiates with a new hegemonic actor or if justice is strengthened to combat delinquency”, stated Balbín.

On twitter, Medellinites have different perspectives: some believe that paying attention to these threats is to empower the criminals and fall prey to terror, others believe that this is just a small hurdle and the government will deal with it and it won't be able to undo 10 years of peace-building, and others, with a much darker streak, believe that this is part of the cleansing process to beautify the city for the IDB visitors, mentioning rumors on the mayors’ connections with paramilitary groups.

So what can the population do? There is already talk of getting together information and reports, and geo-locating them on a map, so people can see which areas are under threat, how many different types of letters are going around, and where violent incidents have taken place.


  • Mark

    I live in a strato 5 neighborhood and I haven’t seen these flyers… Many of my neighbors including myself walk our dogs after 10 pm without any problems… I was glad to see this article and will keep up with the latest findings… thank you….

  • Neecho

    Things are not like the article says. At least not as dramatic.
    A similar -but even worse- situation took place in Medellin about 19 years ago (1990). Threats from Medellin Cartel to Police, followed by flyers saying the same that apparently they say now:
    “Nobody on the streets after 10 pm, or The Yellow Cab will shoot you”
    Some years later (1994) while I was in military service (not as a volunteer) on the Police, somebody from the force formerly known as F-2 told me that this time were called “The War” and that the people who put these flyers on crculation in (1990) and riot some city places shooting everybody who were on streets after 10 pm were the Police.. everybody who can remember that fatal years heard about “El Taxi Amarillo” (the yellow cab) from where the bullets were coming from if you were on the streets after 10 pm.
    I don’t think that something such as that situation will take place again.
    I believe that somebody is tryin’ to make us feel the same way again to avoid us to forget our past and turn our memories to actual terror and control us with black intentions.
    We can’t allow this violence situation to come back again.
    Don’t let our city down!!!!
    Stop empowering the violents!!!!

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.