Colombia Defense Minister Takes Fall for Rising Insecurity

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Colombia’s Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera announced his resignation amidst concern about rising crime and activity by illegal armed groups.

Rivera announced that he would leave the post he had held since President Juan Manuel Santos came to power just over a year ago.

Despite a number of successes against the leadership of paramilitary and guerrilla organizations during his tenure, including the killing of Victor Suarez Rojas, alias “Mono Jojoy,” a senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), and paramilitary leader Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” the perception of insecurity in Colombia is growing.

Kidnappings in Colombia rose 30 percent in the first half of 2011, and the number of attacks on infrastructure by guerrilla groups increased. Crime indicators, in particular rates of extortion and robbery, appear to be growing in urban areas, contributing to the public perception of insecurity. Rivera has faced criticism for his failure to confront the criminal groups (BACRIM) that have strengthened since the dissolution of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC) as well as internal discontent within the military.

The departure of the “Uribista” minister marks another blow to the former president’s influence in the current government. Rivera will be replaced by Juan Carlos Pinzon, who served as deputy defense minister during the administration of previous President Alvaro Uribe, as well as Santos’ chief of staff.

There is little evidence that the rise in attacks is due to any alteration in government security policy, which has remained largely unchanged under the Santos government. The FARC rebels are continuing their policy, begun in 2008, of stepping up guerrilla-style attacks against the security forces.

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