As the situation in Medellín’s western neighborhood of Altavista continues to deteriorate, the situation has become more dire for its residents. Conflicts between criminal groups have caused a stoppage in public transportation, while schools remain closed as parents fear for the safety of their children.
Ricardo Yepes, counselor to the “Cambio Radical” political party, spoke out on Monday, declaring that the crisis will only be resolved by firm-handed government intervention. In a controversial statement, Yepes declared that the neighborhood needs another “Operation Orion“.
Operation Orion was conducted in October 2002 under former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in Medellín’s then troubled San Javier neighborhood, otherwise known as the Comuna 13. While widely considered to be successful in eliminating FARC influence from the area, the operation involved the use of more than 1,500 soldiers from the country’s armed forces in the 4th Brigade. The operation resulted in the deaths, displacement and disappearance of hundreds of the neighborhood’s residents.
In invoking Operation Orion, Yepes argued that the intervention could be repeated, but with respect for human rights.
Medellín mayor Federico Gutiérrez immediately requested Yepes’ request, saying that the necessary steps have already been taken in Altavista. He also said that it is counterproductive to use operation names, and especially to use the name of Operation Orion, which is still a highly controversial topic more than 15 years after the operation.
“The necessary is being done, and that is an intervention with the help of the army, local police and the prosecutor’s office. This will produce quick results”, the mayor said.
Residents of Colombia’s second largest city have criticized Gutiérrez for his inaction in the neighborhood as the crisis enters its second full week.