Colombia Faces Growing Challenges in Micro-trafficking and Illegal Mining

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As President Juan Manuel Santos declared a new offensive against Colombia’s micro-trafficking, a new report reveals the depth of the country’s illegal mining trade, highlighting two of Colombia’s principal security challenges.

Following a visit to one of Bogota’s main micro-trafficking zones, El Bronx, Santos announced the beginning of a new police operation to tackle drug dealing centers known as “ollas,” reported El Tiempo.

The president said he had given orders to the minister of defense and the chief of police to close down 24 ollas in 20 cities within the next 60 days.

On the same day, Colombian weekly Semana published an in-depth report into the country’s illegal mining sector. According to the latest police estimates available, there are illegal mining operations linked to criminal groups in 25 of Colombia’s 32 departments.

In some regions, the criminal organizations run their own mining operations; in other areas, miners have to hand over between five and 20 percent of the gold they find.

Semana’s report also highlights how the mining sector is used to launder drug trade profits by reporting non-existent gold exports. It notes that prosecutions for illegal mining are hampered by the lack of a legislative framework, as most cases are prosecuted for environmental infractions only.

InSight Crime Analysis

As Colombia’s principal criminal groups look to expand their interests beyond transnational drug trafficking they have increasingly turned to the lucrative sectors of micro-trafficking and illegal mining.

In particular, the criminal mafias the Rastrojos and the Urabeños have demonstrated their desire to profit from every level of criminality in Colombia.

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