Harsher Penalties for Extortion, Microtrafficking and Roadblocks in Colombia
By Dialogo September 13, 2013
Colombian Minister of National Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón, submitted to Congress a bill that seeks to strengthen the fight against extortion, micro-trafficking, smuggling, illegal mining, and roadblocks, and includes measures to guarantee the protection of minors that break the law.
The bill intends to adopt measures and provide tools for authorities, with the aim of disrupting the funding sources of terrorist and criminal organizations.
If the bill is approved, extortion would cease to be considered an economic crime, and it would be linked to an aggression against personal autonomy, hence stiffening penalties against offenders that perpetrate crimes of this sort.
According to this measure, if extortion is aimed at funding terrorist activities or affecting the economic capacity of the victim, the penalty for this crime will be increased. Moreover, any attempt to engage in this sort of conduct will be considered a criminal offense.
In regards to micro-trafficking, the project includes new aggravating circumstances to punish this offense and seeks to protect minors, preventing their manipulation into drug trade. This measure will facilitate the prosecution of criminal organizations operating in this field.
Aggravating circumstances include micro-trafficking perpetrated by simulated addiction or carrying drugs for personal consumption near or inside schools, as well as under covered illicit trade or street sales.
In the case of roadblocks, the bill includes instruments that reinforce penalties and punish individuals that promote, direct, and provide means and violent actions against public safety and the normal activities of citizens, as it was experienced in a recent arrest.
The bill also includes aggravating circumstances regarding the use of elements that prevent the identification of individuals participating in criminal actions, such as hoodies, and the recruitment of minors and the elderly.
Furthermore, the bill intends to offer penal and administrative tools against illegal mining to authorities, in order to increase controls in all phases of this criminal activity.
The regulation suggests categorizing illicit mining exploitation as a source of money laundering, since this is one of the main funding sources for illegal organizations.
The Adversarial Criminal System in Military Criminal Justice
Another project submitted by Minister Pinzón is related to the Military Criminal Justice legislative reform, a historical government effort aimed at consolidating an efficient, agile, specialized and independent jurisdiction.
On September 12, the Ministry introduced regulation that contemplates performance requirements for positions in that judicial stage, establishes Law Enforcement and Military Criminal Prosecution, organizes its Technical Investigation Corps, and adopts the provisions for proceedings towards the adversarial system of criminal justice.
In addition, it includes stages and mechanisms aimed at total independence and neutrality to the jurisdiction.
For this purpose, the creation of a special administrative unit stands out as an organization that guarantees legal, labor and budgetary independence for the Military Criminal Justice and an autonomous body, as well as a particular career system for members of the jurisdiction, with independent evaluation, disciplinary and promotion programs for the commands of the Military Forces and the National Police.
The Ministry of Defense assigned $25.6 billion from special resources, to Military Criminal Justice in order to finance all this effort.