By Alberto Maretti
CALI, Colombia – city notorious for having the highest number of murders in the whole country. According to the official Police data, from January to May 2015 it totaled 540, while the authorities declare a decrease of 28% compared to 2014, which closed with 1,544 murders.
In the city there are hundreds of armed urban gangs (pandillas) devoted to theft, robbery, hired assassination and micro drug-dealing, and many of them are also linked to neo-paramilitary groups (Los Machos, Los Rostrojos and others) and the drug cartel.
Over time, Cali has received thousands of refugees from different conflict areas of in Colombia, resulting in neighborhoods overcrowded and characterized by extreme poverty (Aguablanca, Siloè, Petecuy, Sucre) and often marginalized from the rest of the city.
The conflict between armed groups for the control of areas devoted to micro-trafficking has determined over time the creation among various quarters of the so-called “invisible borders”, imaginary lines demarcating the zones of influence of the different gangs. Drawn with the blood of hundreds of deaths, also not directly related to gangs, these barriers forced the inhabitants to a life of fear of being involved in gunfights.
Many of the dead, as well as the murderers themselves, are often very young and in both cases victims of the violence that has destroyed thousands of lives for decades.
Unlike a few years ago, the Government is investing in security, strengthening the presence of the Police and founding the Unipol special section, constantly operating on the territory. However, in many areas the community maintains an attitude of rejection towards the Police, often accused of being itself an active part of the conflict and of using harsh methods.
The high rate of crime has encouraged many civilians and, in particular, artists to establish recreational and cultural associations that may offer young people a way out of the spiral of violence plaguing the city. Common areas have been created and continue to arise, where youngsters can meet and produce works and performances of various kinds (graffiti, dance, sports, street-art).