Medellin: Politics and Conflict


Creation and Strengthening of the popular militias in Medellin

1980 - 1994

Medellin, center of the cocain export cartel


Confronte with the enormous surge in foreign demand for cocaine (especially from the USA), Medellin becomes a center for the cocaine trade.

Change in the Economy

1980 - 1990

Although the company "Coltejer" and the textile industry in general was the center of Medellin's economy, in the 80's this economy went bankrupt and started being little by little replaced by the service industry.

National Civic Movements

1980 - 1990

Medellin has a city-wide strike because of the increase in the price of public transportation.

1948-1988: 49 mayors in 40 years; Lack of Stability

1980 - 1991

During this time the national law is that mayors are appointed, not elected. This leads to a situation in which mayoral terms last on average 10 months, making it impossible to make long term plans.

Pablo Escobar elected to congress

1982 - 1983

Pablo Escobar is elected as the substitute representative in the House of Representatives. His time in politics will end when his fame as a drugdealer becomes known through a story in "El Espectador", a local newspaper.

Escobar against the State: Assasination of Medellin´s Minister of Justice


"One of the most significant events in the attack against justice in the country, the assasination of the minister Rodrigi Lara Bonilla the 30th of April 1984"

This is one example among many of Pablo Escobar´s murder of polititians.


Creation and Genocide of the Patriotic Union

1985 - 1994

After the peace accords with the Betancourt administration, the FARC and other leftist groups form a political party, the Patriotic Union. Its members are in large part assassinated and the party dissolves.
“8 congressmen, 13 deputies, 70 council members, 11 mayors and thousands of its militants were assassinated by paramilitary groups…The number of militants or sympathizers of the Patriotic Union who were murdered is unknown, but partial calculations estimate it could have been around 3,500 with many more disappeared persons.

See the documentary:

Metropolitan Development Plan: For the Consolidation of the Metropolis


Medellin anounces its intention of becoming a metropolis. Until 1991 the political structures will not permit the development of a well constructed plan, but the goal is there.

Pablo vs. Police, Police vs. Youth

1985 - 1991

While Pablo Escobar makes war on the State, paying whoever kills a policeperson (killing more than 600 in Medellin alone), the police responds making war on youth in the streets.

Youth that grew up during this time and are still alive call themselves "survivors".

Medellin´s Cultural Plan


This plan is an attempt to give a different meaning to the city than merely violence. Cultural projects and programs are implemented all over the city.

Region Corporation 3 day seminar on violence with community groups


During the years of heightened violence, mayoral employees and community groups meet to coordinate and share ideas about the reality of violence in the city and how to confront it.

Highest homocide levels, reach 381 dead for every 100 000 people

1990 - 1993

There were 6 349 homicides in 1991, the most violent year. Medellin is the most violent city in the world at this point.

Pablo Escobar wins non-extradition and turns himself in


In the new 1991 Colombian constitution extradition becomes illegal, something Pablo had be fighting for. He subsequently turns himself in to the authorities although his time in jail will be comfortable and brief.

New Constitution of 1991, elections for Mayors


The new 1991 constitution brings many changes to Colombia, that the Catholic Church not be the state church and recognition of minority rights are two big examples among others.

For Medellin, the fact that Mayors will not be nominated but rather elected leads to a structural change that allows for mayors elaborate Municipal Development Plans. The 90's are a time of increased strategic territorial planning.

Construction of San Antonio "Park"


Investment in recovering public spaces in the center of the city through the construction of tourist sites.

*Note: This "park" has no real green spaces and much more resembles a plaza.

Creation of the Presidential Ministry in Medellin- civil society is strengthened


The new position is named by the president and is part of an effort to help organize civil society with NGOs, foundations and other civic groups.

Death of Pablo Escober, The Office of Envigado rises


Using triangulation of calls to his family, a joint local police force and CIA operation tracks and kills Pablo Escobar after his fleeing from jail. He is killed on a roof while running away from arrest.

Peace Accords and demobilization of independent milicias: M19 and the EPL


CONVIVIR, legalized paramilitaries

1994 - 1997

The legality of “Special Vigilance Services and Private Security” groups, or CONVIVIR, was authorized during President Gaviria’s administration and later strengthened during President Pizano’s administration. Paramilitaries operated within this framework and were therefore essentially legalized. The then-governor of Antioquia and future president Alvaro Uribe strongly supported the CONVIVIR. After human rights violation denunciations in 1997 these groups were largely limited.
In Medellin the CONVIVIR are consolidated during these years as well as groups such as the MAJACA (Death to the Car Thieves)

Inauguration of Medellin's Metro, creation of Counsel of Citizen Coexistence


Construction of EPM Intelligent Building


President Pastrana Negotiations with FARC. Support for Paramilities.

1998 - 2002

During this time paramilitary groups are strengthened.

Non Agression Pacts and Mediations with Gangs

1998 - 2000

Between 1998 and 2000 the Peace and Coexistence Counsel of Medellin, headed by Luis Guillermo Pardo, leads 26 non-aggression pacts and 25 mediations in Medellin’s neighborhoods.
“At the end of 2000 some of the signatories of the pacts considered the state support scarce, that the employment offered lasted little time or was not available for all the members of the gangs involved”

The impact of this initiative was not as positive as hoped for.


Assasination of the Defender of Human Rights Jesus Maria Ovalle


Denouncing stealing of lands and assinations leads to death.
Jesús Maria OValle was de first of several human rights workers killed by the paramilitaries.


Construction of Plaza Botero


Operation Orion in the Comuna 13


As part of Uribe’s “Democratic Security” politices, this operation along with others used advanced military technology and strength with the supposed goal of removing guerilla groups from Medellin’s neighborhoods, in this case Comuna 13.
“Operation Orion was led first by troops from the IV Brigade, commanded by General Mario Montoya, in conjuncture with the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), special forces of the National Police and the District Attorney’s office. It is calculated that about a thousand man participated, entering on land and by air to El Saldo, Independecias I, II, and III and Nuevos Conquiestadores neighborhoods. To these forces were added paramilitary forces from the Cacique and Nutibara Bloc of the United Autodefenses of Colombia (AUC)”

"Democratic Security" under President Uribe: Militarism and foreign investment

2002 - 2010

During the administration of Alvaro Uribe the security doctrine was strongly focused on increased military and police. In many cases he succeeded in removing guerilla groups from comunas and neighborhoods in Medellin, although usually these were replaced by paramilitary groups.
In terms of its economic policies “Democratic Security” emphasized tourism, exportation (mining and petroleum among others) and foreign investment in the country.

"I'll buy the War" Mayoral Program


The Mayor's office propose employment and educational programs to youth in exchange for tranquility within neighborhoods. The concept is of paying for peace, in a certain sense.


Demobilization of Cacique Bloc of the AUC (paramilitaries) in Medellin


More than 900 members of the Cacique Nutibara and Heroes de Granada Blocs of the AUC turned in weapons and demobilized.
Although there is a decrease of violence, this demobilization is seen in civil society only as a partial success given how many demobilized take up arms again in “criminal gangas” which reproduce the same patterns as paramilitary groups.

Economic Strategy: Medellin Cluster City

2003 - 2013

“For more than 10 years the city of Medellin has been working in a systematic manner to advance the competitive development of its businesses. In order to do this a public-private sector work has been consolidated which privilages the Cluster Strategy as the matrix which allows businesses to be strengthened and be consolidated in a collective manner to innovate and access new markets such as is seen internationally.”

Mayor Fajardo: " Medellin the Most Educated" and "Social Urbanism"

2004 - 2007

Large investment in the infrastructure of the city and educational facilities. Scholarships are awarded to study technical degrees, “Good Start” program for early childhood nutrition and other initiatives aimed at education begin.
Social Urbanism focuses on recovering parts of the city which have been forgotten building Library-parks and other public works.

Regional Development Stategy: "Antioquia the Best Corner in Latin America"

2005 - 2013

A large part of the plan that in 2020 Antioquia (the región within which Medellin is located) be “just, peaceful, educated, forward-moving and in harmony with nature” is strengthening connectivity with the outside world so as to accomplish its incorporation to globalization. Within this context one understands the mega-projects that are under way.


Mayor Salazar: "Medellin is Solidarity and Competitivity"

2007 - 2010

Salazar continues with many of the same policies as his colleague and friend Fajardo and enfasizes further the cities competitivity internationally.

He works the proposal of "Antioquia the Best Corner in Latin America" and Medellin Cluster City, all within the national policy of Democratic Security.

Control of Crime Disputed between Valenciano and Sebastian

2008 - 2012

Control of crime is disputed between two heads, "Valenciano"and "Sebastian" until they are killed or arrested.

Extradition of Don Berna: competition in the criminal market in Medellin


Don Berna, an ex-paramilitary who had taken part in a peace process took power a little after the death of Pablo Escobar. For many years he held the monopoly on crime in the city; a monopoly he kept even from his jail cell. His extradition created a power and leadership vacuum which in turn led to a large increase in violence city-wide.

The "Urabeños" start to take over Medellin: Violence in comunas 8,10,13 y 16


The “Urabeños”, part of the Office of Envigado, start taking control of the city, leading to higher violence especially in the comunas 8,10,13 y 16. They distribute pamphlets in neighborhoods installing a curfew by 8pm.

Medellin Voted Most Innovative City