From the legislature to the media, a lot of prominent Colombians are asking why, amid regular gaffes, human rights abuses, and evidence of deteriorating security, Defense Minister Guillermo Botero is still at his post.
In an article explaining that it’s basically “Botero is ex-president Álvaro Uribe’s man in his party’s government,” the online journalism outlet La Silla Vacía included this:
the President [Iván Duque, from Uribe’s party] supported him by saying that “it is not time to talk about a resignation of Minister Botero.”
The explanation of the Ministry is that under Botero’s guidance, between January 1 and September 12, 2019, kidnappings fell by 50 percent, homicides by 2 percent, and shoplifting by 15 percent. In addition to the 278 tons of cocaine that the security forces have seized and the 57,400 hectares of coca leaf that have been eradicated.
I don’t know about the kidnappings and the shoplifting. But on the 2 percent reduction in homicides, I’d note this explanation from one of Colombia’s main security think-tanks, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation:
Between 2012 and 2017 there was an incredible reduction in the indicators of violence. In 2018, some of these indicators increased, mainly homicide. In 2019 they are falling again, returning to 2017 levels. However, this good news brings a rather problematic diagnosis: much of this reduction is due to, in some areas, several criminal organizations reaching non-aggression pacts (Pacific coast of Nariño), in other cases some illegal structure won the local war (Catatumbo), or simply decided to lower levels of violence while strengthening itself (Putumayo). In any of the three scenarios the levels of violence would fall. In other words, violence levels are not proportional to the presence of criminal organizations.
So this very modest drop in homicides owes more to adjustments in the criminal underworld than it does to improved performance of the security forces under Minister Guillermo Botero.
And on the cocaine seizures: 278 tons of cocaine seized through September 12 is behind the pace of the past few years. At that rate, the security forces under Botero’s command would seize 398 tons of cocaine by the end of the year. That’s a lot—but fewer than in 2017 and 2018.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s bimonthly Gallup Poll shows 83 percent of Colombians believing that the problem of “insecurity” is worsening—holding steady from Juan Manuel Santos’s second term, but definitely not improving.
This is a very thin defense of Guillermo Botero’s record.